Dufy, The Port of Le Havre

Raoul DUFY (1877-1953), The Port of Le Havre, 1900, oil on canvas, 37.2 x 45.8 cm
Raoul DUFY (1877-1953), The Port of Le Havre, 1900, oil on canvas, 37.2 x 45.8 cm
The Port of Le Havre, c. 1900, was rediscovered in the artist's family at the same time as End of the Day in Le Havre, the first artwork Dufy exhibited at the Salon of 1901 (acquired in 2012) and its preparatory study (acquired in 2013).
By its subject matter, perspective and treatment alike, this painting can be associated with two watercolours donated to the museum by the artist in 1900 to thank the City of Le Havre for the scholarship he received to pursue his studies in Paris.
 
In the summer of 1899, as he was planning his upcoming departure for military service, Dufy wrote to his friend Othon Friesz of his desire to "paint pochades in the outer harbour [of Le Havre] especially what remains most picturesque, for it is probable that with all the extensions and embellishments our old port will suffer it will be quite unsightly when I return from my service” (letter conserved at the municipal library of Le Havre).
This painting was undoubtedly executed at that time, between the summers of 1899 and 1900.
Dufy did not limit himself to the "most picturesque" aspects of the old port, but delved further into the industrial port. The painting depicts the back of the outer harbour with one of the locks providing access to the other basins, the docks, and the tall distinctive outlines of the electrical poles that were installed in the early 1890s. Dufy adopted a very low viewpoint, skimming the water, which resulted in a higher horizon line. The quays and the port installations thus seem as if they are floating above the surface of the water.
 
This early artwork holds great interest as a testament to the very beginning of the artist's career and his indebtedness to Impressionist painting. Indeed, we can see here the paint applied to the canvas in touches of rather loosely fragmented colour, as well as attention to the fleeting effects of light reflected on the surface of the water.
The canvas calls to mind the work of Eugène Boudin, who painted the port of Le Havre his entire life and, like Dufy, chose it as the subject of his first pieces.
 
Following the acquisition of End of the Day in Le Havre and its preparatory study, The Port of Le Havre further complements the museum's Dufy collection by shining a spotlight on the young painter's debut and laying the groundwork for greater understanding of his formative period.
Learn more

Works acquired in 2013 (3)

Raoul DUFY (1877-1953), Study for End of the Day at Le Havre, ca. 1900, oil on canvas, 65.6 x 80.4 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / David Fogel — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
Raoul DUFY (1877-1953), The Port of Le Havre, 1900, oil on canvas, 37.2 x 45.8 cm
Raoul DUFY (1877-1953), Portrait of Gustave Coquiot, 1924, pencil, 52 x 40.5 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / Charles Maslard