Le Bassin de Toulon

by Jean Dufy


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 21.5 x 28.0 in./ 54.6 x 71.1 cm
SIGNATURE: Stamped signature lower right
MEDIUM: Ink and pencil on paper


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    In Le Bassin de Toulon, Dufy has recreated the hive of activity of a busy working harbour in the South of France using his distinctive crisp calligraphic manner and controlled, masterly draughtsmanship. Fishing boats intermingle with larger vessels on the clear still waters of the bay while in the distance the buildings of the port city are glimpsed.

    Toulon is a port city on the Southern French Mediterranean coast and is a significant naval base. It is home to submarines and warships as well as fishing boats and ferries with rugged limestone cliffs forming a backdrop to the city and framing the harbour. There is both sensitivity to the feeling and atmosphere of the port in this drawing as well as high attention to detail.


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    However, he also spent long stretches in the south of France and his maritime scenes were among his favoured subject. As a young man he had served aboard the transatlantic liner ‘La Savoie’ as a secretary, and his depictions of the sea and ports in are among his best work. Le Bassin de Toulon belongs to that artistic period.


    Jean Dufy was born in 1888 and came from a large, musically as well as artistically, very talented family. His older brother was the well-known painter, Raoul Dufy.  Dufy’s career began with a mercantile apprenticeship – he only gradually discovered his love of painting. When visiting an exhibit in Le Havre in 1906, featuring impressive works by Matisse, Derain, Marquet and Picasso, he decided to become a full-time artist.


    When he returned from military service in 1912 he moved to Paris. In 1914, Jean Dufy presented his watercolours for the first time in the Galerie Berthe Weill, receiving great recognition. After this success he was encouraged to work tirelessly on his paintings of landscapes, animals and flowers. By 1916, Raoul and Jean Dufy worked together for textile studio Bianchini-Férier, also developing flower and animal designs for the Lyon porcelain manufacturer Théodore Haviland de Limoges for thirty years.

    In 1920, he returned to Paris and lived in the artist quarter Montmartre, a direct neighbour of Georges Braques. The music and art of the Parisian culture scene during the post-war years influenced Jean Dufy definitively in his power of expression in colours, but at the same time he was drawn time and again to nature and to landscape representation. In 1925, Jean Dufy received the Gold Medal at L`exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs for designing the porcelain service “Châteaux de France”. He exhibited consistently for the subsequent years.


    In 1950-60, Dufy took numerous trips abroad, and his impressions from these were reflected in his work. He died on 12th May 1964 in La Boissière in France.

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