Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Property from the Rothschild Art Foundation
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)

Paddock et turfistes à Ascot

19 7/8 x 26 1/8 in. (50.4 x 66.1 cm.)
Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan, New York (acquired from the artist).
Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Boos, Detroit (acquired from the above, November 1938).
Hammer Galleries, New York (acquired from the above).
Stanford Z. Rothschild, Jr., Baltimore (acquired from the above, 1971).
Gift from the above to the present owner.
The Connoisseur, no. CLIV, June 1969.
F. Guillon-Laffaille, Raoul Dufy, Catalogue raisonné des aquarelles, gouaches et pastels, Paris, 1981, vol. I, p. 355, no. 971 (illustrated).
New York, Hammer Galleries, Summer Exhibition, June-August 1971, no. 58 (illustrated in color on the cover).
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Rembrandt to Rivers, Art Assembled from Maryland Collectors, October 1971.


Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco


Dufy’s fascination with horse racing was initially prompted by his collaboration with the couturier Paul Poiret, who in 1909 commissioned the artist to design the stationery for his fashion house, and the textile patterns for its fabrics and garments. Poiret’s signature styles were flamboyantly sported by the ladies attending the races at Deauville, Longchamp, Chantilly, and of course, the even more fashionable English race courses at Epsom, Goodwood and Ascot. The designer urged Dufy to study the elegant silhouettes, fashionable attire and interactions of the dazzling crowd of spectators, encouraging his interest in society life, luxury and pleasure.
Dufy was immediately drawn to the exhilarating atmosphere surrounding the race itself and began to experiment with the subject of horse races as early as 1913. He executed numerous paintings and watercolors of the elegant women, dandies and jockeys in the spectator area, the horses captured mid-race, and paddock scenes. These works demonstrated his close attention to detail, and conveyed the special atmosphere of the racecourses and the luxurious lifestyle of the beau monde. Dufy became an unwitting chronicler of society by painting these scenes. Jacques de Laprade wrote: “Dufy portrayed twenty-five years of our amusements with the same urbane humour and magnificent sense of draughtsmanship” (M. Brion, Raoul Dufy, Paintings and Watercolours, London, 1958, p. 18).
With his discovery of Epsom and Ascot during his stays in England in the 1930s, Dufy’s compositions became more ambitious as he started depicting the whole course as seen from bird’s-eye view, resulting in grand, somewhat theatrical compositions, such as the present work. It was around this time that Dufy started developing his couleur-lumière theory—a method that emphasized color over the shading properties of black and white, and which allowed him to convey light in a distinct way. By treating volumes as flat areas of paint and dissociating the outline of a figure from the color that defines it, Dufy achieved extraordinary fluency, grace and refinement of composition. The bright colors, vivid contrasts and subtle tone changes in this paddock scene at Ascot reveal Dufy’s remarkable ability to convey the vivacious atmosphere that pervades the spectacle and social event of horse racing.

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