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[Herald Review] Painting and beyond: Diverse sides of Dufy explored in two Seoul exhibitions

By Park Yuna

Published : June 6, 2023 - 17:50

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"Les Cavaliers sous bois (vers 1931 - 1932)" by Raoul Dufy (Centre Pompidou)

French artist Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) encompassed different art styles throughout his career. Influenced by impressionism in the 19th century, his art began to evolve, interacting with other movements ranging from post-impressionism and fauvism to cubism.

As a result of multi-faceted approach, Dufy’s name is not as easily recognized in South Korea as Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse or Pablo Picasso -- representative artists in the movements which he incorporated into his works. However, this may change with two exhibitions that are taking place simultaneously in Seoul featuring the French artist's work.

The two exhibitions – at Hangaram Art Museum and The Hyundai Seoul – happened to overlap by coincidence, according to organizers. Combined, a total of more than 350 artworks by the artist will be on display from different collectors.

Knowing the different elements and characteristics emphasized in each exhibit will help visitors in deciding whether to go to just one or both. However, going to both will give a more comprehensive idea of the artist's works and his life.

Music is an essential part of both exhibitions in terms of curation. Dufy grew up in a musical family, with a father who was a conductor and organ player. Dufy’s brothers also worked in the music industry.

An installation view of “Raoul Dufy: The Melody of Happiness” at The Hyundai Seoul (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald) An installation view of “Raoul Dufy: The Melody of Happiness” at The Hyundai Seoul (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The Hyundai highlights early to late progression

The Centre Pompidou in Paris claims it holds the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works. The exhibition “Raoul Dufy: The Melody of Happiness” which opened on May 17 at The Hyundai Seoul in Yeouido, central Seoul, was curated by Christian Briend, chief of the Centre Pompidou’s modern collections department.

Among some 1,500 works from the Paris collection, 130 works were selected for Seoul, 55 of which are oil paintings. The concept of 12 sections are inspired by 12 musical notes used to create a beautiful melody, according to the exhibit’s local co-organizer GNC Media.

"Self-portrait" (1898) by Raoul Dufy in is on display at the entrance to the exhibition at The Hyundai Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The exhibition starts with two strikingly different self-portraits painted by the artist in 1898 and 1948, hinting at how Dufy explored different styles. The opening is followed by 12 sections from “Impressionist Heritage” to “Black light,” progressing from his early works to later works the artist painted before his death.

The gallery dedicated to Dufy's “Cubist Season” shows how the artist once fell into cubism. During this phase, the artist created landscape paintings and nudes incorporating Paul Cezanne’s style, which interprets objects in geometric shapes.

In the summer of 1909, the artist decided to follow in the footsteps of Cezanne in Estaque, a fishing village in southern France with his friend Georges Braque. The village was where Cezanne, whose techniques had a major influence on cubism, drew some of his works.

"Seated Nude" by Raoul Dufy from 1909 (right) and "Nude Study" created in 1911 are on display at the exhibition at The Hyundai Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The exhibition wraps up with Dufy’s paintings from his later years, featuring the color black. On the wall is a quote by the artist that reads: “The Sun at its zenith is black: we are dazzled, in front, we can’t see anything. So for me, it is black that dominates, you have to start from black, and try another transposition, a composition that finds luminosity in the contrast of color.”

Dufy died at age 75 in France, where he had painted until his death. The exhibition runs through Sept.6.

Visitors view paintings by Raoul Dufy at The Hyundai Seoul on May 27. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald) Visitors view paintings by Raoul Dufy at The Hyundai Seoul on May 27. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Hangaram Art Museum features diverse mediums beyond paintings

The exhibition “Raoul Dufy: Colorful Symphony” at Hangaram Art Museum in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, shows 180 works by Dufy, revealing little-known aspects of the artist who was also a fashion designer after seeing a success as a painter. The exhibition features Dufy’s textile designs, couture dresses and illustrations, going beyond his paintings.

The exhibition brings together works from the Museum of Modern Art Andre Malraux; the Museum of Fine Arts in Nice; as well as from the private collections of Jules Cheret and Edmond Henrard. The exhibit was curated by Eric Blanchegorge, director of the Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology in Troyes, France and president of the General Association of Curators of Public Collections of France.

Visitors watch the documentary “Raoul Dufy, la lumiere entre les lignes Visitors watch the documentary “Raoul Dufy, la lumiere entre les lignes" at Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul, May 28. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Belgian collector Edmond Henrard has collected Dufy’s works since the 1950s, Blanchegorge said in the exhibit’s description.

Music also plays big part in the exhibition. Composed by Chung Yea-kyung, a track synchronized with Dufy’s voice from interviews is played upon entering the exhibition hall. A 51-minute documentary titled “Raoul Dufy, la lumiere entre les lignes,” directed by Sonia Cantalapiedra and translated as “Raoul Dufy, the light between the lines” is also available for viewing as part of the exhibit.

"The Electricity Fairy : First Plate Of Ten lithographs" by Raoul Dufy (Edmond Henrard Collection)

A section is dedicated to Dufy’s monumental 6-meter mural, “The Electricity Fairy,” created for the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. The work, which was re-created as 10 lithographs a decade later, is on display along with media artwork inspired by the mural.

Dufy was born into a poor family and raised in the port city Le Havre in the Normandy region of northern France, which became a constant source of inspiration for his art. The sea and sailing boats reminiscent of his hometown are featured among his paintings.

“Life hasn’t always smiled on me. But I have always smiled on life,” reads a striking quote by the artist.

The exhibition opened on May 2, and will run through Sept. 10.

"Boats Dressed with Flags" by Raoul Dufy (Edmond Henrard Collection)