Fine Art

Jean Dufy

French, 1888-1964

Aux courses

Watercolor and gouache on paper
17 1/2 x 22 inches (44.5 x 56 cm)
Framed: 26 x 31 inches (66 x 78.7 cm)
Signed lower right: Jean Dufy


Frost & Reed, London, 1961
Private collection, UK
This painting is sold with a certificate of authenticity from Jacques Bailly, Paris.


This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist by Jacques Bailly.

Jean Dufy was born into a large artistic family in Le Havre in 1888. From a family of nine children, Jean Dufy was the younger brother of Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), and like his brother, he would celebrate Paris as one of his favorite subjects. The Dufy family was particularly musical, and the father was a talented amateur musician in addition to his profession as an accountant. The musical stage and composers of his era served as the lyrical subjects of many of Jean Dufy’s paintings.

Little is known of Jean’s childhood in Le Havre, other than he worked as an itinerant clerk for an overseas import business and as secretary on the transatlantic liner La Savoie, which linked Le Havre to New York. At the 1906 Le Havre exposition he first saw the works of Matisse, Derain, Marquet, and Picasso. After serving in the military from 1910 to 1912, Jean moved to Paris and grew acquainted with Derain, Braque, Picasso, and Apollinaire. He showed his first watercolors at the Berthe Weill gallery in 1914, and these works show the hatching technique practiced by Cezanne and his brother Raoul.

Jean was drafted shortly after this first exposition to fight in World War I. Upon returning from the war he received medical treatment in Val-d’Ajol, in the Vosges region, where he drew the landscapes, flowers, and horses of the region. In 1916, after briefly working with his brother for the textile painting studio of the Bianchini-Férier company in Lyon, Jean embarked upon what would become thirty years of decorating porcelain for Théodore Haviland in Limoges. His floral and animal-based designs earned him a gold medal at the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts for the “Châteaux de France” set.

In 1920, Jean moved back to Paris, settling into Montmartre. Amid this intense artistic scene, the artist developed his skills as a colorist. He also met some of the great musicians of the day, and his work increasingly reflected the marriage of art and music. He created scenes of musicians and orchestras, and several showed the figures in the shapes and placements of musical notes upon a page. He also was attracted to paintings circuses and clowns. In the following years, Jean’s return visits to Le Havre inspired many colorful landscapes. For the 1937 World’s Fair, the general manager of the Paris electricity distribution company commissioned Jean and Raoul to decorate the electricity pavilion.

Between 1950 and 1960 Jean traveled widely, mostly in Europe and North Africa. Paris remained his favorite subject, drawing the parks, the Eiffel Tower, street life, and the Seine. During his life, Jean Dufy was a well-known painter with frequent expositions in Paris and the United States. He passed away on May 12, 1964, in La Boissière in the village of Boussay, two months after the death of his wife Ismérie.

Aux courses is likely one of several colorful scenes Dufy created of the horsemen and horse-drawn carriages of Paris’s grand Bois de Boulogne park. Characteristic of Dufy’s style, this work is colorful and lively, with his horsemen subjects all in motion. Rich blues, fleshy pinks and peaches are juxtaposed with earth tones create a fantastic and whimsical scene. A black carriage with two white horses at the left and several figures on horseback on the right move through the foreground, with quick lines and dabs of paint indicating trees in the background. There is a quickness in Dufy’s manner of painting that, paired with his soft palatte, adds to the bustle and movement of the park.