Raoul Dufy was born into a large family who in the Normandy port of le Havre. His first job was at a coffee importing company which paid for evening classes at the local Ecole des Beaux-Arts. There he was taught by Charles L’Huillier, a former of pupil of Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres, and also met Othon Friesz, whom he would later share an apartment with in Montmartre. Dufy’s earliest works were generally painted in watercolour and depicted the landscape of his native Normandy. He spent a year in the army before winning a scholarship in 1900 to the École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was joined by Georges Braque.
It was during this period that he became aware of Monet and Pissarro, whose work had an acute effect on Dufy. He exhibited in Paris for the first time 1901 and then again the following year at Berthe Weill’s gallery. Weill was one of the first dealers to sell the works of Matisse, Picasso and Modigliani. Dufy exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1903, showing a number of works painted on the Normandy coast and in particular the beach at Sainte-Adresse, site of Monet and Boudin’s iconic plage scenes.
In 1905 Dufy was greatly influenced by the Fauvist exhibition at the Salon des Independants, a show which included Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté (Musée d’Orsay). It was during this period that his mature, fauvist style became established, concentrating on celebratory subject matter such as concerts, parties and regattas on the Riviera, rendered with a vibrant and bold style that reflected the joy of the event depicted. This distinguished technique was applied to numerous mediums including murals, ceramics, tapestries and textiles. Legendary couturier Paul Poiret commissioned Dufy to create fabric designs as well as his personal stationery. In 1937 Dufy painted one of the largest compositions ever created, the ten by sixty-metre La Fée Électricité for the Exposition Internationale.
Throughout the 1940s he exhibited at the Salon des Tuileries but his work was hampered by the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. It deteriorated to the point where he had to have the brush lashed to his hand. He finally underwent pioneering treatment involving cortisone injections which allowed him to return to painting, however he suffered intestinal damage and died in 1953. He is buried near Matisse at the Cimiez cemetery in Nice.
His works can be found in museums in: Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne; Nice, Musée des Beaux-Arts; London, Tate, The Royal Collection, The Courtauld Institute; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art.