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Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Audio: Property from a Distiguised Italian Collection
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
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Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)

Le clocher (Église de St Vincent au Havre)

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Le clocher (Église de St Vincent au Havre)
signed 'Raoul Dufy' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 21 1/4 in. (65 x 54 cm.)
Painted in 1908
John Quinn, Paris; his collection sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 28 October 1926.
Mr. & Mrs. John Boulton, Caracas; his collection sale, Christie's, London, 3 December 1965, lot 11.
Galleria d'Arte Moderna Farsetti, Prato.
Private collection, Italy, by whom acquired from the above, and thence by descent to the present owners.
M. Laffaille, Raoul Dufy, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuve peint, vol. I, de 1895 à 1915, Geneva, 1972, no. 316, p. 263 (illustrated).

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Ishbel Gray
Ishbel Gray

Lot Essay

Le clocher is the only non-Italian painting that comes from the same private collection as lots XX, demonstrating the special admiration that the later owner had for Raoul Dufy.

Raoul Dufy was, together with Emile Othon Friesz and Georges Braque, one of the protagonists of the Fauvist school of Le Havre, where he was born in 1877, and he completed his studies, at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts. In 1899, he was released from military service and moved to Paris with Friesz, where he became acquainted with the work of the Impressionist artists. The turning point of his career however came in 1905, when he visited the Salon d’ Automne. The vivid colours and violent brushstrokes of the early Fauve painters such as Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck, were irresistible to him and his fellow Norman painters, who inevitably responded to this in their own work, back in their native Normandy.

Le Havre remained one of Dufy’s favourite subjects, and one that he would paint both from life, while visiting his native town, and in his studio, allowing his imagination to recreate it, a tendency in common with the Fauves he had admired in Paris.

Le clocher depicts the bell tower of the Church of St Vincent in Le Havre, surrounded by a harmonious yet dynamic view of the rooftops of Dufy’s hometown. The tones are slightly darker than those typical of his 1906 images of Le Havre, almost as if the day here was turning to sunset, but the deep, blue brushstrokes give a sense of movement, balanced with serenity, that pervades the canvas. A very similar stylistic approach and palette can be seen in some major paintings executed the same year in the South of France and today in museums, such as the Vence landscape in the collection of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, or Boats at lEstaque in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice.

Le clocher has not been seen at auction since 1965, when it last sold publicly as part of a large, important collection sale.

Property from a Distinguished Italian Collection:

There is a considerable difference between a group of paintings put together as a form of investment and an art collection in its most authentic meaning. The next six lots belong to the latter: a sophisticated collection of works of art, assembled by a passionate, discerning art lover and his wife.

The late owner started collecting in the 1960s and continued through the 1990s. Some key elements were in his favour: he was gifted with strong entrepreneurial skills, elegant taste and intellectual curiosity, but he also had an excellent guide in Claudia Gian Ferrari.

Claudia Gian Ferrari (Milan, 1945-2010) was an important protagonist of the Italian art scene. In the gallery she ran in Milan for almost thirty years, after the death of her father Ettore in 1982, she contributed to the reappraisal of the Italian art between the wars through her exhibitions and as an art historian, compiling catalogues on Sironi, Casorati and Martini among others. Also known as a collector herself, Claudia acquired significant works from the 20th Century, including paintings by the major names in contemporary Italian Art, such as Morandi, Fontana, De Chirico as well as pieces by emerging artists. In 1996 she founded the “Studio di consulenza per il Novecento Italiano”, a consultancy studio conceived as an exhibition space as well as a centre for documentation.

Every important art collector in Italy would at some point gravitate towards one of her venues, (her two galleries and the Studio), as all three played a key role in nourishing a circle of sophisticated art lovers who, following her advice in sourcing and lending their works of art, forged some of the most respected collections of ‘Moderno Italiano’.

The owner of the paintings displayed in the next pages, (and in a section of this week’s Impressionist and Modern Art South Kensington on 5 February), soon became one of them.

Although not every work in the collection was sourced directly through the Gian Ferrari Gallery, most of them were chosen with Claudia’s advice. The result is a group of important, historical works by some of the most renowned names of the Italian art scene between the wars: De Chirico, Morandi, Casorati and Sironi among others.

When looking at the selection of works we have from this collection this season, one easily perceives a sense of cohesion, knowledge and consistency behind each choice - the only non-Italian name included in the group being Raoul Dufy, here represented at lot 373 later in this sale, a beautiful example of one of his all-time preferred subjects, Le Havre. Almost none of the lots have ever been seen before at auction, and those that have, have not appeared on the market for over twenty years. Many of the paintings boast extensive exhibition histories, having been lent by the owner to major Italian and international museums, who would always turn to Claudia Gian Ferrari knowing they would find in her a supporter, willing to push her collectors to grant them the loan of their works of art.

Some of these museums (like Museo del Novecento and Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan, or MAXXI and MACRO in Rome) are now proud to display many works of art once belonging to the Gian Ferrari family, who very generously donated them, in line with their nature as enlightened patrons of Italian Modern Art.

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