In March of 1905, Raoul Dufy sent eight paintings to the twenty-first Salon des Indepéndants at the Grand Palais. The exhibition also included a retrospective of forty-eight Georges Seurat paintings, but it was Henri Matisse's Luxe, calme, et volupté that made the greatest impression on Dufy. Twenty years later, he recalled that it was in front of this painting that he understood "all the new reasons for painting. I understood instantly the new pictorial mechanics" (quoted in D. Perez-Tibi, Dufy, Paris, 1989, p. 19).
In the six months that followed the close of the exhibition, Matisse sought out environs which suited his interest in working with vivid, saturated color. He was drawn to the Midi region with its brilliant light and lush topography, and was soon followed by Charles Camoin, Henri Manguin, Albert Marquet and André Derain. Dufy, too, ventured south from Paris, visiting Marseilles and Martigues in the summer and autumn of that year.
The third Salon d'Automne opened in October 1905. The paintings that were hung together in Salle 7, with their emphasis on expressive color over descriptive function, caused a sensation when seen grouped in one small room. In his review of the exhibition for Gil Bas, published on 17 October 1905, by Louis Vauxcelles coined the appellation "Les Fauves," or "the wild beasts."
Dufy did not submit paintings to the Salon d'Automne that year, but he had already been experimenting with a "pre-Fauve" palette as early as 1902 with Jeune femme au canapé rose (Laffaille, no. 45; Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena). Inspired by what he had seen at the exhibition, Dufy returned to Normandy in search of suitable vistas in which to experiment with color. Working alternatively with Georges Braque, Emile-Othon Friesz and Albert Marquet in Normandy during 1905-1906, he came to be referred to as one of the "Norman Fauves." In the winter of 1905 he returned to the town of Falaise where he had painted previously during 1901-1902 (see Laffaille, nos. 24-28 and 34-36). Situated eighty miles from his childhood home of Le Havre, Falaise was a small medieval town, notable for its castle set atop a massive rocky cliff and famous as being the birthplace of William the Conqueror. Dufy continued to paint his familiar motifs but now invigorated his treatment by juxtaposing areas of flat color, as seen in L'Attelage. He stated, "Painting means creating an image which is not the image of the appearance of things, but which has the power of their reality" (quoted in ibid., p. 22).