LOT 127

1877 - 1953

La pluie sur la tonelle
oil on panel, circa 1939 - 1940
signed and on verso inscribed "9"
9 1/4 x 15 in, 23.5 x 38.1 cm

Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000 CAD

Sold for: $55,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Galerie de la Présidence, Paris
Acquired from the above by Liliane M. Stewart, 1982
Estate of Liliane M. Stewart, Montreal

Maurice Lafaille and Fanny Guillon-Laffaille, Catalogue Raoul Dufy: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, supplément, 1985, reproduced page 168, listed page 197, catalogue #2044
Chris Cran, It’s My Vault, McMaster Museum of Art exhibition and publication 2015, amended in conversation with Chris Cran, March 14, 2018

Raoul Dufy occupies a critical place in the formative period of European twentieth century modern art, but he is not easily or readily categorized, as by the 1920s, he had chosen an independent route. Dufy’s earliest association was with the short-lived Fauves (wild beasts), who showed at the Salon d’Automne from 1905 to 1908. The key Fauve artists are a who’s who of early twentieth-century modern, including Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, André Derain, Albert Marquet, Kees van Dongen, Maurice de Vlaminck and Othon Friesz, who was a life-time friend. Their work was characterized by flat planes and bold, saturated colour that did not adhere to “naturalism,” yet the preferred subject matter was the landscape and the urban environment. Matisse’s now-celebrated painting Luxe, calme, et volupté was shown in the 1905 Salon. It had a profound effect on Dufy, who stated, “I instantly understood the new pictorial mechanics.”

By 1908, the Fauvists drifted apart to pursue different and individual interests, and in general terms, a more muted palette; Derain to “neo-classicism”; Vlaminck and Braque to explore the “geometric essentials” of Paul Cézanne (who had died in 1906). Dufy spent the summer of 1908 with Braque, as both worked “through Cézanne.” A prime example of Dufy’s work from that year is Les arbres verts à l’Estaque (in the collection of the McMaster Museum of Art). Braque, in turn, took on the “Cubist project” with Pablo Picasso. Dufy and Matisse were the only two who continued the Fauvist ethos of bold colour but introduced a graphic simplicity. Ironically, Matisse was not in favour of including Dufy in the 1905 Salon with the main Fauve works.

Dufy embraced diverse opportunities for visual expression. He produced woodcut illustrations for Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1911 collection of poems Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d'Orphée; set designs for Jean Cocteau; and collaborative ceramic works in the 1920s with Catalan artist José (Josep) Llorens Artigas (more than two decades before Picasso began his ceramic works). Dufy’s longest continuing decorative artwork was in designs for textiles, first for the fashion designer and couturier Paul Poiret (who has been termed a “prophet of modernism” for design), and then on an “industrial” scale for the silk manufacturers Bianchini-Férier. In the 1950s, Dufy designs were produced by the American company Fuller Fabrics for their Modern Masters series; participating artists included Picasso, Joan Miró, Fernand Leger and Marc Chagall. Dufy’s most ambitious single work was a mural of near-immersive proportions (approximately 6,500 square feet in area), for the Pavilion of Light and Electricity at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris, and now permanently installed at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

La pluie sur la tonelle (Rain on the Arbour) is a fanciful composition characteristic of Dufy’s post-1930 works, although always based on observation. Initially he painted the coastal region of Normandy and Le Havre, where he was born, and later, Dufy was drawn to coastal locations along the French Riviera, where he lived after the 1930s. While the scale of the painting is modest—typical of his later studio work—there is an expansive and fanciful playfulness; a graphic shorthand to register an arbour, houses and figures, and a simple, decisive gesture to convey rain clouds. The latter includes Dufy’s audacity in representing falling rain, which is rare enough in painting. What sets Dufy apart from other colourists is his unique approach to colour-ground and image-figure. Canadian artist Chris Cran summarized this as a “purposeful misregistration of colour and line and doing this powerfully forty years before Warhol.”

Five variations of the La pluie composition, produced between 1939 and 1946, have been identified. They are in varying sizes and colour-ground treatments, but each features the arbour positioned centrally in the foreground and two flanking buildings in the background. As with La pluie sur la tonelle, there is a suggestion of a landscape horizon, clouds on the left side, and rain. Figures based on classical motifs, in the everyday, appear in two of the paintings; and the arbour image appears in two other works from the early 1940s.

We thank Ihor Holubizky for contributing the above essay. Holubizky is a senior curator at the McMaster Museum of Art and an adjunct assistant professor at McMaster University.

This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by Maurice Lafaille, December 14, 1982.

For the biography on Liliane M. Stewart in PDF format please click here

Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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