La Cité, Vue de l’Hôtel de Ville,1904

by Raoul Dufy

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 18.0 x 21.75 ins /46.0 x 55.0 cms
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘R.Dufy’ lower right
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

La Cité, Vue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 1904, is a delightful record of Parisian life the turn of the twentieth century. The work was exhibited at the Musée Carnavalet in Paris in 1961, part of an exhibition on the changing views of Paris. Alternatively called ‘Le Marché aux Pommes’ (The Apple Market), it provides a snapshot into the daily working life of ordinary Parisians.

Catalogue No: 4864 Categories: ,

Painted in 1904, the work hints toward the distinctive Fauve style the artist would soon adopt and his masterful use of line and colour are displayed here in full force. As recounted by Bryan Robertson: “Dufy’s characteristic use of a compact, tersely eloquent calligraphy and pure, clean, unfussed, fast-flowing line is perhaps the most radical extension in the first half of the twentieth century of Van Gogh’s passionately forceful and explosive handling of line and color in his own later paintings, and particularly in the drawings made with a reed pen” (quoted in Raoul Dufy (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 1983, p. 18).

Two preliminary sketches both titled “Le Marché aux Pommes Quai de l’Hôtel-de-Ville”   have been catalogued in Pierre Courthion’s book Raoul Dufy of 1951, ref. 14. & 15  p.XVII. This shows Dufy’s fascination with this particular subject; his interest lies with the light falling not on Paris’s famed Hotel-de-Ville which we see in the background but instead it illuminates the humble Parisians in the foreground.


Collection Monsieur Cointreau, Paris;
Galerie Mouradian-Vallotton, Paris;
Private Collection, Paris;
Private Collection, United Kingdom


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Raoul Dufy was born into a large family at Le Havre, in Normandy. He left school at the age of fourteen to work in a coffee-importing company. In 1895, when he was 18, he started taking evening classes in art at Le Havre’s École d’Art (municipal art school). The classes were taught by Charles L’huillier, who had been, forty years earlier, a student of the remarkable French portrait-painter, Ingres. There, Dufy met Raymond Lecourt and Othon Friesz with whom he later shared a studio in Montmartre and to whom he remained a lifelong friend. During this period, Dufy painted mostly Norman landscapes in watercolours.


In 1900, after a year of military service, Dufy won a scholarship to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where again he crossed paths with Othon Friesz. (He was there when Georges Braque also was studying.) He concentrated on improving his drawing skills. The impressionist landscape painters, such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, influenced Dufy profoundly.


His first exhibition (at the Exhibition of French Artists) took place in 1901. Introduced to Berthe Weill in 1902, Dufy showed his work in her gallery. Then he exhibited again in 1903 at the Salon des Indépendants. A boost to his confidence: the painter, Maurice Denis, bought one of his paintings. Dufy continued to paint, often in the vicinity of Le Havre, and, in particular, on the beach at Sainte-Adresse, made famous by Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet. In 1904, with his friend, Albert Marquet, he worked in Fecamp on the English Channel.


Henri Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté, which Dufy saw at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, was a revelation to the young artist, and it directed his interests towards Fauvism. Les Fauves (the wild beasts) emphasized bright colour and bold contours in their work. Dufy’s painting reflected this aesthetic until about 1909, when contact with the work of Paul Cézanne led him to adopt a somewhat subtler technique. It was not until 1920, however, after he had flirted briefly with yet another style, cubism, that Dufy developed his own distinctive approach. It involved skeletal structures, arranged with foreshortened perspective, and the use of thin washes of colour applied quickly, in a manner that came to be known as stenographic.


Dufy also acquired a reputation as an illustrator and as a commercial artist. He changed the face of local fashion and fabric design with his work for Paul Poiret. He painted murals for public buildings; he also produced a huge number of tapestries and ceramic designs.


In the late 1940s and early 1950s Dufy exhibited at the annual Salon des Tuileries in Paris. Dufy died at Forcalquier, France, on 23 March 1953, and he was buried near Matisse in the Cimiez Monastery Cemetery in Cimiez, a suburb of the city of Nice.



Maurice Lafaille: Raoul Dufy, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Genève 1972, Vol I, n° 82, p. 77, illustrated;
P. Courthion: Raoul Dufy, Geneva, 1951, p.14

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