June 3 marks the birth of post-Impressionist artist Raoul Dufy in 1877. He took art lessons from Charles Lhuillier, who was in turn taught by the great portraitist, Ingres – not a bad heritage. After his military service, he moved to Paris where he enrolled in the École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts. He became aware of the work of the Fauvists, known for bright colors. Fauve means “wild beasts” or big cat, like a lion or tiger. The Fauvists got their name due to the dismissive opinion of one of the critics at a 1905 exhibition. Dufy also experimented with Cubism before developing his own style that came to be known as stenographic; it was characterized by a foreshortened perspective and washes of color. His bright, happy pictures didn’t receive the same critical attention as those that dealt with more serious subject matter. He said, “What I wish to show when I paint is the way I see things with my eyes and in my heart.” He also worked in other commercial avenues, such as stationery and fabric design for Paul Poiret, and book illustrations for writers such as Guillaume Apollinaire, André Gide, and Stéphane Mallarmé. He died March 23, 1953.
Today’s expression, ça sent le fauve (sah son luh fove) means “it smells like a beast.” It’s what you’d say about a nasty smell like nasty, wet socks or a high school locker room. It’s hard to imagine Dufy’s paintings being compared to such negative images, but tastes are fickle, aren’t they! Today his images hang in many of the world’s major museums, including the Met in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, England’s Tate, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the d’Orsay in Paris. His watercolor of the Eiffel Tower, above, painted in 1935, is in a private collection. The owner bought it in 2005 for almost $200,000.