Fanny Guillon-Laffaille will include this painting in her forthcoming supplement to the Dufy catalogue raisonné of paintings.
The subject of horse racing first appeared in Dufy's work as early as 1913, but it was not until the early 1920s, when the fashion designer Paul Poiret asked him to go to the races to study fashionable dress, that it started to become one of the most important themes of Dufy's oeuvre. At first Dufy was urged by Poiret to concentrate his depictions on Poiret's models, playing with their parasols as they flirted with the racehorse owners, but Dufy's attention was soon taken with the exhilerating dynamism of the horses in mid-race and the colourful and vibrant display of the spectators and their often dazzling surroundings.
'Friends who accompanied Dufy on his earliest expeditions to the racecourse in the twenties... all speak of the way in which he was more interested in the horses' and jockeys' colours than he was in the people, smart or otherwise. Gradually, in Dufy's racecourse scenes... everything is again given up to the crisp, jaunty inter-action between green turf, red brick buildings, white railings, multi-coloured crowds, green trees against blue sky with sprightly puffs of clouds' (B. Robertson, 'An Introduction to Raoul Dufy', exh. cat. Raoul Dufy 1877-1953, London, 1983).
The present work was painted in 1930 during one of Dufy's two trips to London. Although not the primary purpose of his visits, he was able to take the time to visit the races at Ascot, Epsom and Goodwood, as well as regattas at Cowes and Henley. Ascot is an animated and vivid depiction of a quintessentially English summer tradition that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the event and the emphasis on the social scene as much as on the races themselves.