Musical Painting: Jean Dufy

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Artist Jean Dufy

Like his older brother the textile maker Raoul, Jean Dufy (1888-1964) broke the conventional bonds of putting paint solely on canvas, expanding his artistic career through alternate means of expression. His introduction into the art world began much the same as his sibling’s did, gaining exposure to great works once he turned 18: at the exposition in Le Havre – where he was born. There, Jean first came across pieces by Picasso, Matisee, Derain, and Marquet.

Though these artists, with their dazzling use of color and representation of light inspired Jean, his first exhibition at the Berthe Weill gallery in 1914 featured water colors with muted tones, using a hatching technique that Cezanne was known for – and that his brother Raoul taught him.

Even though the two brothers would ultimately take divergent routes in their careers, Jean worked briefly with Raoul at the textile studio Bianchini-Férier, where Raoul got his start in textile design. Although a short interlude, the job allowed Jean Dufy to step into art professionally after being drafted for the war – during which time he nevertheless managed to find time to depict the landscapes he encountered as a soldier in paintings and drawings. Jean and brother Raoul are compared for their zeal for color and common thematic subjects: the sea, open windows, and ateliers.

Jean Dufy

Jean Dufy, Le Cirque

But what Jean Dufy became most known for were his designs on an unexpected medium: porcelain. After leaving Bianchini-Férier, Jean took up work for Théodore Haviland in Limoges, decorating porcelain with floral patterns and animals that would earn him a gold medal at the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts. He would dedicate thirty years to painting porcelain pieces.

Perhaps bound to be influenced by his artistically inclined family, his painting career coalesced with the bold images of pianists and orchestras Jean Dufy created after being exposed to French musicians of the postwar era. His father, too, was a musician, and ostensibly helped to foster his interest in this other means of expression. Jean’s paintings merged the symbols of music with paint, turning musicians’ heads into notes on a staff and placing harps to depict quarter rests: he masterfully mirrored form with content.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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