Fine Art

Jean Dufy

French, 1888-1964

Venise, Le Grande Canal

Oil on canvas
25 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches (65 x 80 cm)
Signed and dated lower center: Jean Dufy 29


Collection Kleinmann & Co, New York
Private collection, Europe


Jacques Bailly, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre Jean Dufy, 1888-1964, volume I, page 354, No 711

This painting is sold with a certificate of authenticity from Jacques Bailley.

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 also was attracted to paintings circuses and clowns. In the following years, Jean’s return visits to Le Havre inspired many colorful landscapes. It is during this creative and earlier period that Jean painted our example.

For the 1937 World’s Fair, the general manager of the Paris electricity distribution company commissioned Jean and his brother Raoul to decorate the electricity pavilion. Between 1950 and 1960 Jean traveled widely, mostly in Europe and North Africa.
During his life, Jean Dufy was a well-known artist 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.

Dufy’s beautiful and special composition depicts the spectacular Grand Canal in Venice. Characteristic of his style, this work is full of color and movement. Gondolas float leisurely on the canal, while a lively throng of pedestrians pass along the canal’s banks. Some seem to be waiting for their turn on the gondola, while others are merely passersby. Most of the figures are depicted in pairs, most noticeably the sailors in white uniforms walking toward the building on the left, and a pair of ladies dressed in black walking toward the viewer. The brown, white and peach tones of the buildings complement the spectacularly expansive blue, white, pink and yellow sky framing the scene.