Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Property from the Estate of Eileen Josten Lowe
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)

La flotte à Villefranche

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
La flotte à Villefranche
signed 'Raoul Dufy' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (65.1 x 80.9 cm.)
Painted circa 1926
Mr. and Mrs. Peter A. Rübel, New York.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York (gift from the above, 1950).
Perls Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, November 1953).
Werner and Margaret Josten, New York (acquired from the above, by 1975).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, vol. XIX, no. 3, spring 1952, p. 23, no. 934 (illustrated, p. 13).
A. Werner, Raoul Dufy, New York, 1953 (illustrated in color, pl. 11).
M. Laffaille, Raoul Dufy, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Geneva, 1973, vol. II, p. 182, no. 631 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Recent Acquisitions, February-April 1951.

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Lot Essay

In 1919, Dufy made his first extended visit to the Alpes-Maritimes region in the South of France. The Mediterranean sun and lush vegetation made an immediate impression upon him. He began to incorporate broad bright color with calligraphic line, developing what was to become his trademark style. As Grace L. McCann Morley writes, "It was in the twenties that Dufy adopted the peculiar conventions of color characteristic of so many of his oils and watercolors for two decades. The arrangement of bands of color to establish a composition... and application of color independent of forms and their contours became the rule. The result is an abstract color composition which exists and functions on its own terms...the result of his long research in color as the expression of light. Like the local colors that spill over the outline of the forms, they have the effect of suggesting movement" (Raoul Dufy, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Art, 1954, p. 18).
In the present work, bands of varying shades of rich blues comprise the sprawling port of Villefranche-sur-Mer, where the visiting fleet of the world’s navies would often dock. Thick lines of purple paint form the boardwalk, where a well-dressed couple on a stroll watches as sailors unload onto land. Various types of boats populate the vast Mediterranean Sea. Here Dufy, the devoted colorist, has brilliantly captured the intensity of the light and colors in the South of France.
La flotte à Villefranche was previously in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and was thereafter acquired by the preeminent musician, Werner Eric Josten and his wife Margaret. Maestro Josten began a distinguished teaching career at Smith College in 1923, a post he held until 1949, the year he and his wife moved to Manhattan. It was during the ensuing decade and a half that the Jostens began amassing an extraordinary collection of European art from the late 19th through mid-20th century, which adorned the walls of their Fifth Avenue apartment. Although much of the collection was dispersed in the mid-1970s, many works were passed on to their children, Peter Josten and Eileen Josten Lowe. Eileen Josten Lowe followed in her parents’ footsteps; she and her husband Dr. Charles Lowe, began collecting contemporary art of the 1950s. Theirs was an eclectic but harmonious collection, which favored color and texture, and celebrated an exuberance and deep love of art.

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