The present work depicts one of Dufy’s favorite subjects during the 1930s: the joyful and dynamic atmosphere of seascapes and regattas. The artist loved to paint scenes of boats racing across the tumbling waves, their sails unfurled, or sailing into the harbors of Le Havre or Deauville. Often called the Parisian Riviera, Deauville was internationally renowned as a glamorous place, with a racetrack, casino, and Coco Chanel’s first shop outside of Paris.
In this bold depiction of the Deauville harbor, Dufy captures the vibrancy and joie de vivre of the port town. Painted with dynamic brushstrokes, the surface of the water and texture of the clouds appear animated. The influence of Fauvism is readily seen in both the intensity of color and in the loose application of the paint. In Dufy’s interpretation of Fauvism, he combines skeletal, dark contours with quick washes of paint. The luminous palette adeptly conveys the climate of the Normandy coast, in particular through the use of cobalt blue, a characteristic choice of the artist. Although commonplace in a seascape, Dufy gives a deeper explanation for his preference for this color in an interview with Pierre Courthion in 1951: “Blue is the only color which keeps its own individuality across the spectrum. Take blue with its different nuances, from the darkest to the lightest; it will always be blue, whereas yellow darkens in shadow and fades out in lighter parts, dark red becomes brown and when diluted with white, it isn’t red any more, but another color: pink” (quoted in P. Courthion, Raoul Dufy, Geneva, 1951, p. 52). One can see in this preference for blue, also a symbol of France, the deep patriotism of a painter who decorated street windows with large French flags during his Fauve period, and who adorns the present work with a French tricolor proudly in the center of the composition.