Born in the port city of Le Havre to a lower-middle-class working family, Raoul Dufy's life unfurled as a romantic success story. Within only a few short years following his arrival in Paris in 1900, he enjoyed a succès d'estime in association with the Fauves only to be followed by enormous commercial success, receiving commissions for tapestries and textile designs for the ever-chic Paul Poiret and Bianchini. Energised by this giant of a capital city, it was the Parisians and their city, Parisians and their fashion, Parisians and their voyages that quickly became Dufy's most favoured subject matter.
Embodying the spirit of a flâneur, he took to the streets and to the terraces to document what was at the time the intellectual and artistic epicentre of the world. Charles Baudelaire, who wrote extensively on the subject of the flâneur, concluded, 'For the perfect flâneur, it is an immense joy to set up a house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow. To be away from home, yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, yet to remain hidden from the world - such are a few of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.' Like many artists before him who came to the city with an already-formed notion of Paris and all it had to offer, Dufy's Paris is the pure Paris, the real Paris, the Paris that exists in the dreams of those who weren't born and raised there. It is a city of sparkling monuments as seen from a bird's eye view facing the Tower Eiffel in the present work - a study for a set of tapestries on the theme of the Monuments de Paris, where the rosy stone of the Arc de Triomphe radiates like a beacon amidst the orderly Hausmannian streets. Artists such as Dufy who flocked to Paris around the turn of the century and made it their home in fact preserved and furthered the fantasy of this 'dream city' in their works. As William Burroughs recollected in the context of the Fluxus happenings in 1960s Paris, 'Dreams are a biological necessity, for individuals and for whole cultures as well. And artists are the dreamers for our world - they are, in some sense, the most powerful members of society because their dreams will come to life in a thousand ways in a thousand places. But even dreams require conduits and connections, to bring them to reality in the minds of people all over the world' (quoted in Paris, Capital of the Arts, 1900-1968, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2002, p. 12).