Oil on canvas
15 1/4 x 18 1/4 inches (38.5 x 46 cm)
Framed: 23 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches (59.5 x 67 cm)
Signed lower right: Raoul Dufy
Private Collection, USA since the early 1950s
This painting is sold with a certificate of authenticity from Fanny Guillon-Laffaille.
Raoul Dufy was a prominent French painter whose prolific career spanned over 50 years. In addition to his vocation as a painter, Dufy also worked as an illustrator, fabric designer, and decorator. Dufy’s artistic training began when he and the painter Achille Emile Othon Friesz were school friends and together studied the works of Boudin in the museum in Le Havre. In 1900, Dufy received a local grant enabling him to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he joined Léon Bonnat’s studio, and in 1902 he was introduced to Berthe Weill, who showed his work in her gallery.
In 1912 Dufy signed a contract with the French silk firm Bianchini-Ferier, shortly after his first forays into fabric design with clothier Paul Poiret. After becoming art director at Bianchini-Ferier, Dufy began to fully express and realize his talent for design. In his time with the firm, Dufy’s “eye” for color, fluid line, and ornamental decoration blossomed in his textiles and became inextricably linked to his paintings. It was a seminal time in Dufy’s oeuvre which inspired the artist to develop his signature technique in both his “fine” and decorative works.
As Dufy remarked, “Que d’échos cette période passionnante de ma vie ne réveille-t-elle pas en moi! Grâce à Poiret et à Bianchini-Férier j’ai pu réaliser cette relation de l’art et de la décoration, surtout montrer que la décoration et la peinture se désaltèrent à la même source.” “What echoes didn’t this passionate period of my life awake in me! Thanks to Paul Poiret and to Bianchini-Ferier, I was able to realize the relation of art to decoration; above all that both painting and decoration draw from the same source.”
This work is a vibrant painting of a textile design made for Bianchini-Ferier. Dufy painted butterflies several times in his designs, developing a number of fanciful gouaches. Here he contrasts the vivid colors and sinuous lines of the butterfly with a rich, black background. The alternating bands of warm and cool hued wings give the composition an abstract quality, while the various patterns of the individual butterflies lend visual interest to the work. The decorative aspect of the painting is heightened by a repetition of pattern: the highest row of butterflies is repeated at the middle of the composition, with repeating forms continued throughout the lower half of the work. It is a bold and colorful work that beautifully reflects Dufy’s innovative approach to the relationship between art and design.