Les Canotiers, la Marne, 1935
Signed lower right
Oil on canvas
50 x 73 cm, 19.7 x 28.7 in
The Marne River, situated on the eastern outskirts of Paris, was a favourite subject for artists throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, including Marquet, Cézanne and Pissarro. Like these artists,...
The Marne River, situated on the eastern outskirts of Paris, was a favourite subject for artists throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, including Marquet, Cézanne and Pissarro. Like these artists, Dufy was attracted to its pleasure-filled scenes, particularly of canoeists on the river. 'Les Canotiers, la Marne' belongs to an important series of 19 oil paintings on the theme, including 'Nogent-Sur Marne' (1935) in The Art Institute, Chicago and the Musée du Havre’s 'Nogent, Pont Rose et Chemin de Fer' (1935/6). As one of the final paintings from the series, the composition is filled with great detail and has been painted in Dufy’s characteristically free and colourful style.
At the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, Dufy famously encountered Matisse’s 'Luxe, Calme et Volupté'. The work was a revelation to the young artist and directed his interest towards Fauvism. He left Impressionism behind and began to combine the bright colour of the Fauves with the flat angular compositions of Cézanne. By 1935 he had established a radical personal style of painting in which layers of colour were applied with a brisk but exacting energy in an almost calligraphic style.
Keenly aware of the effects of light upon colour, he developed his theory of ‘couleur-lumière’: "Light is the soul of colour, without light, colour is lifeless”. Having previously worked predominantly in gouache and watercolour, 1935 signalled a turning point for Dufy. He befriended the artist and scholar Jacques Maroger, who introduced him to a new medium of paint which, while oil-based, allowed light through the pigment to create a greater fluidity. Perfectly suited to his dynamic style, Dufy adopted these brilliant yet transparent colours to create vibrant works such as this.
Meanwhile, the graceful outlines with which he has portrayed the buildings, figures and bridge behind also reveal his talent as a draughtsman. As Gertrude Stein, the poet, writer and art collector wrote, “Dufy is pleasure. Think of the colour and it is not that and the line and it is not that, but it is that which is all together and which is the colour that is in Dufy”. Les Canotiers, la Marne perfectly encapsulates the ‘joie de vivre’ for which Dufy was renowned at this point in his highly successful career.
Mme Genevieve Gallibert, Vence
Private collection, UK
Maurice Laffaille, Raoul Dufy, Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint, tome 3, Genève, Éditions Motte, 1976, n° 956, repr. p. 28