"One must meditate abut pleasure. Raoul Dufy is pleasure." - Gertrude Stein
Luxe, calme et volupte. Luxury, calm, an voluptuousness are the characteristics we associate with the French artist Raoul Dufy (1877-1953). Although Dufy worked in ceramics and textiles he is best known - and loved - for his later paintings with their foreshortened perspectives, suggestive shapes, and thin washes of color quickly applied, resulting in a style dubbed 'stenographic painting."
Born in Le Havre on the Pas de Calais, Dufy took refuge in the Midi during the Nazi Occupation. Driven out of his home at Saint-Denis-sur-Sarthon by the invading Germans in early 1940, he settled in unoccupied southern France. Already suffering from the rheumatoid arthritis that eventually led to his death, the artist coped by strapping the paintbrush to his hand so as to continue working. "The period of my illness and the cataclysms of the world should not be apparent in my ... work," he said and they are not.
The farms, farmyards, and granaries and granaries of the little village of Lestelle are the subject of numerous paintings and sketches from the late 1940s. Spare little pictures painted with an economy of means portray the rhythms of a rustic life.
Unlike Jean-Francois Millet's humbly religious peasants, Dufy's farmers are an altogether more pantheistic lot. Around a table before a granary, a trumpeter and an accordionist entertain their mates on a break from haying. A table is there an the effect is so perfect that we do not question its being there. In the background a farmhand is working atop a combine. A summer storm cloud passes casually by, only temporarily quelling the golden dust that rises from the threshing. machine.
In Musicians In The Country the chromatic intensity of golds alternates with swaths of verdant green. The horizontal lines impart a sense of calm to the scene. An intensely blue stream leads up at right to a scalloped aqueduct, a survivor of Roman times, reminding us of Virgil's Georgics, a manual of agricultural things that Dufy's near contemporary Aristide Maillol illustrated in a series of prints and drawings between 1937-1944. Perhaps both sought comfort in seeming eternal verities and who could blame them.
Image: Raoul Dufy - Musicians In The Country, 1948-49, oil on cardboard, Centre Pompidou, Paris.