Raoul Dufy (3 June 1877 – 23 March 1953) was a French Fauvist painter. He developed a colorful, decorative style that became fashionable for designs of ceramics and textiles, as well as decorative schemes for public buildings. He is noted for scenes of open-air social events. He was also a draftsman, printmaker, book illustrator, scenic designer, a designer of furniture, and a planner of public spaces.
He left school at the age of fourteen to work in a coffee-importing company. In 1895, when he was 18, he started taking evening classes in art at Le Havre’s École des Beaux-Arts. The classes were taught by Charles Lhuillier, who had been, forty years earlier, a student of the French portrait-painter, Ingres. There, Dufy met Raymond Lecourt and Othon Friesz with whom he later shared a studio in Montmartre and to whom he remained a lifelong friend.
In 1900, after a year of military service, Raoul Dufy won a scholarship to the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He concentrated on improving his drawing skills. The impressionist landscape painters influenced Dufy profoundly. His first exhibition (at the Exhibition of French Artists) took place in 1901. Then he exhibited again in 1903 at the Salon des Independants.
Henri Mattise’s, Luxe, Calme et Volupté, which Dufy saw at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, was a revelation to the young artist, and it directed his interests towards Fauvism. Dufy’s painting reflected this aesthetic until about 1909, when contact with the work of Cézanne led him to adopt a somewhat subtler technique. It was not until 1920, however, after he had flirted briefly with yet another style, cubism, that Dufy developed his own distinctive approach. It involved skeletal structures, arranged with foreshortened perspective, and the use of thin washes of color applied quickly, in a manner that came to be known as stenographic.
Dufy’s cheerful oils and watercolors depict events of the time period, including yachting scenes, sparkling views of the French Riviera, chic parties, and musical events. Dufy completed one of the largest paintings ever contemplated, a huge and immensely popular ode to electricity, the fresco La Fée Electricité for the 1937 Exposition Internationale in Paris.
Dufy also acquired a reputation as an illustrator and as a commercial artist. He painted murals for public buildings; he also produced a huge number of tapestries and ceramic designs. His plates appear in books by Guillaume Apollinaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and André Gide.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Dufy exhibited at the annual Salon des Tuileries in Paris. By 1950, his hands were struck with rheumatoid arthritis and his ability to paint diminished, as he has to fasten the brush to his hand. In 1952 he received the grand prize for painting in the 26th Venice Biennale. Dufy died at Forcalquier, France.