Raoul Dufy, ‘Epsom, la course’, 1933, Richard Green Gallery

Raoul Dufy was influenced both by the Fauves and the German Expressionists in his use of colour as an emotional medium divorced from a strict adherence to appearances. Slavish truth to nature was less important than evoking a ‘shorthand of the essential’ through a poetic universe of emblems. Among his favourite themes were regattas and seaside views, and horseracing.

Dufy’s fascination with racing grew out of his collaboration with the couturier Paul Poiret, who commissioned him to design textile patterns and stationery. Dufy’s paddock watercolours of around 1913 concentrate on the fashionable women in their Poiret dresses and the dandies who accompanied them to the Deauville races. This theme was expanded in the 1920s, with frieze-like compositions of Poiret models enjoying the pleasures of the Turf. From the 1930s Dufy spent much time in England and mingled with high society at Epsom and Ascot. He explored the energy of the horse race, the explosion of colour, light, movement and pattern-making which gives Epsom, la course its intensity.

Seen from a bird’s eye view, the pounding horses have an iconic quality which echoes all the way back to the wild horses of the Lascaux caves. Their vivid, ochre-brown is broken by the angular figures of the jockeys, mostly outlined in a rich blue. The famous grandstand at Epsom is also concentrated into a series of fierce horizontal and vertical lines, its geometry contrasting with the free-flowing animals. Dufy perfectly captures the excitement of the race and the exhilaration of watching these high-bred creatures move effortlessly through space.

Frame size: 22 x 24 ½ in / 55.9 x 62.2 cm

Signature: Signed lower right: Raoul Dufy

Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Raoul Dufy, 1955, no.23, illus.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim Jeune-Dauberville, Chefs-d’œuvre de Raoul Dufy, 1959, no.27

Jean Cassou, Les Trésors de la Peinture Française, vol. XXlll: Raoul Dufy, Geneva 1950
Maurice Raynal, Histoire de la Peinture moderne, vol. ll: Matisse, Munch, Rouault: fauvisme et expressionisme, Geneva 1958, p.71, illus. in colour
Maurice Lafaille, Raoul Dufy, Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint, Geneva 1976, vol. III, p.312, no.1304, illus.

Dr Alexandre Roudinesco, Paris, acquired from the artist; by descent


About Raoul Dufy

Fauvist painter, draftsman, and printmaker Raoul Dufy inspired a wide range of fine and decorative artists with his playful style and appealing subject matter. Dufy drew inspiration from Impressionists Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet and closely studied the works of Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse. He typically painted leisure scenes, seascapes (often of the French Riviera), and domestic interiors, as in Artist’s Studio in Vence, a vibrant red scene recalling Matisse’s own rendition of the same subject. After 1920, Dufy engaged more closely with the work of Cézanne and Pablo Picasso, flattening and deconstructing his compositions and creating portraits in the African-mask inflected manner typical of Picasso’s own Cubist work, as in Little Bather at Ste. Adress (1932-33). Also a commercial illustrator, Dufy’s works were included in books by writers Guillaume Apollinaire and Stéphane Mallarmé.

French, June 3, 1887 - March 23, 1953, Le Havre, France