About The Artwork
The Seine River flowing through Paris along with its famed bridges occupy nearly one half of this cityscape by Jean Dufy. Gazing at the Left Bank from the Right, Dufy presents the viewer with a lighthearted composition that is punctuated with the monuments, buildings, and syncopated rhythms of the French capital.
Dufy liked simplified forms and vivacious colors, and as such varied lines and a multitude of hues animate Ponts de la Seine. Painting in a naive yet lyrical style, Dufy lays down broad painterly brushstrokes (seen primarily in the buildings) to provide stability to the composition. Pencil thin lines serve to animate its surface. Although it covers a large proportion of the composition, the Seine seems to adhere flatly to the picture plane through the use of wide, horizontal, yet thinly painted bands of color. Indeed, color drives much of the viewer’s impression of the scene, and true to his signature form Dufy gives preference to various shades of blue — mixed with green for the water, washed with yellow in the sky — punctuated by dabs of pure red, yellow, black and white throughout. A recognizable panorama, the artist nonetheless maintains areas of pure abstraction.
And what Paris does the artist impart in Ponts? The Eiffel Tower juts into a blue sky and provides the high point of the skyline and the composition. The Seine flows towards the viewer through the heart of the city, and Dufy depicts two of the more than thirty bridges that span the river. A smattering of brightly painted boats, including a steamer and one of the ubiquitous tourist bateaux, cruise through this scene, going this way and that. Like other artists in the Padnos Collection (Édouard Cortès, for example) Dufy seems to revel in a poetic vision of the city.
Such an approach does not come as a surprise, given that the artist’s early education included an interest in the work of Stéphane Mallarmé, Charles Baudelaire, and Arthur Rimbaud. Like his brother, the Fauve painter Raoul Dufy, the artist experienced first hand the work of the Parisian avant-garde during the first decades of the twentieth century, when both men lived and worked in the French capital. Jean settled in Montmartre in the 1920s. He exhibited regularly in France, including successive appearances in the Salon d’Automne, and in the United States. Dufy’s sense of design developed over the course of his long career, enhanced by his work decorating ceramic ware for the renowned Limoges porcelain company.
Assistant Professor, Frederik Meijer Honors College, Grand Valley State University