Night Study: Raoul Dufy

Andréa Fernandes

October is smack in the middle of marching band season, so today's post features the 1949 lithograph "The Band." The artist behind "The Band" is Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), a French artist requested by reader cinthya.

1. Raoul Dufy began his artistic career through night classes at his local École des Beaux-Arts. During the day, he was working as a book-keeper and/or errand boy, perhaps for a coffee importing company (there isn't really a consensus among sources). He then received a scholarship from his town, Le Havre, to attend the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

2. Dufy, known for his bold use of colors, had two key theories about color. His first, the theory of "couleur-lumiere," was his idea that "light is the soul of color, without light, color is lifeless." His second was the belief that black is actually the color of absolute light, not the negation of color. Near the end of his life, Dufy began using black as a dominant element in his compositions as a result of this belief.

3. Producing more than 3,000 works during his life, Dufy did not limit himself only to paintings. In 1909, he created a series of woodcuts for Guillaume Apollinaire's book of poems, Bestiaire, and in 1912 he began producing textile designs for the firm Atuyer, Bianchini & Férier. He was frequently commissioned by couturier Paul Poiret to create printed textiles, often for dresses. In the 1920s, he worked on ceramic decoration, while in the 1930s he produced designs for large-scale tapestries and furniture fabrics. He even produced decorative engraving schemes for the Corning Glass Company.

4. In 1947, Dufy traveled to the United States (Boston, MA, to be specific) to receive cortisone treatment for his multiple-arthritis, as it had gotten so bad over the last 10 years that he could no longer paint. While the treatment didn't cure him, it did relieve his symptoms enough that he could return home to France and resume painting.

A larger version of "The Band" is available here. Fans should check out the Dufy collections at the Tate and the Weinstein Gallery; this video of Dufy works; and this exploration of Dufy's use of color. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.