1888-1964 | French
Signed and dated "Jean Dufy 27" (lower right)
Oil on canvas
The energy and joie de vivre of the French circus has been captured in this important oil by the French artist Jean Dufy. The circus was one of Dufy's favorite themes, and he returned to it time and time again throughout his career. The subject offered him a true artistic spectacle to lay down on canvas. For years, he explored the animated and joy-filled world of circus entertainers such as clowns, bareback riders and musicians, resulting in compelling, vibrant portraits like Le cirque that pull the viewer into this magical world. A very similar work on the circus theme executed in gouache can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Le cirque was painted in 1927, the pinnacle year of the artist’s career. Not only had he reached the height of his creativity, but also a level of fame and economic stability that allowed him to truly stretch his artistic legs. Indeed, some of the most important works of his oeuvre were composed in 1927, including another oil entitled Le cirque that is reproduced on the cover of his 2002 catalogue raisonné and bears remarkable similarities to the present work. His 1927 Allée cavalière appears on the back of that same volume. His 1927 watercolor entitled L'orchestre is a prized addition to the Detroit Institute of Arts, while his 1927 Assiette de fruits et bouquet de roses à l’atelier was prominently featured in the 2011 exhibition Raoul and Jean Dufy – Accord and Discord at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.
The present work is itself of museum quality. Composed during the most significant year of the artist’s career and containing one of his preferred subjects, Le cirque can be counted among Dufy’s most important works. The dynamism of the scene is perfectly translated through the artist's vivacious experiments in color and movement. He combines bold and spontaneous black outlines with broad areas of vivid color, creating dynamic planes that captivate the viewer. The resulting work is colorful and full of vigor, displaying the bright fluidity that defines his highly modern style.
Born in Le Havre, Normandy, both Dufy and his famous older brother Raoul showed a talent for drawing at an early age. After his military service, he moved to Paris in 1912, eventually befriending key members of the French avant-garde, including Derain, Braque, Picasso, and Apollinaire. His early watercolors reflect the remarkable influence of this group, as well as his own brother, Raoul.
For 30 years, Dufy also worked as a painter on porcelain at the famous ateliers of Théodore Haviland in Limoges, France, winning a gold medal at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1923. He frequently exhibited his painted works throughout Paris and the United States. Today, Dufy's works are found in numerous museums throughout the world, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou (Paris), and Museum of Modern Art (New York).
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently in preparation and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Jacques Bailly.
Canvas: 23 5/8" high x 28 3/4" wide
Frame: 30 7/8" high x 36 1/8" wide