March 1, 2016

Dufy's Animals

        Raoul Dufy (French, 1877-1953) was a painter who experimented with various schools of modern art, especially Fauvism.  I confess to finding his paintings utterly uninspiring.  However, I recently discovered his wood block prints, which I find much more pleasing.  In 1911 he illustrated a bestiary by Guillaume Apollinaire with a series of thirty wood block prints.  Here are some of my favorites.
        First, this insect.  It’s called a housefly, although it doesn’t look much like one to me.  Still, I just love its composition, with stained glass wings and flowers all around it.  Although the fly is on a white background, around the edges of the block it morphs to a black background, giving it a lovely balance of light and dark, with the center illuminated.
        Next is the rabbit, rather small and camouflaged itself, but resting in a charming countryside.  The caterpillar is quite adorable, with its innocent eyes, mouth nuzzled up to a leaf, and embracing another leaf in its curl.  At the four corners are little foreshadowing butterflies.
        The crayfish is another laid out decoratively rather than depicted within a scene.  I suppose the fine, frondy plants are some sort of water weeds.  Dufy has managed to make this crayfish look rather delicate, despite his bold carving style.  Once again I find the switch from white background to black very effective.  I should do that more often myself.
        Apollinaire’s carp is celebrated for its longevity, and there was a Japanese koi said to have lived 225 years.  Dufy, however, has turned the fish into a fountain, thus ensuring that it can last even longer despite being out of the water.  I like the stately home and garden around the edges of the ornamental pool, suggested with just a few rough lines, but perfectly clear.
        Finally a very elegant peacock, artfully arranged with pillar, urn, balustrade and leaves filling in the corners of the triangle.

[Pictures: LaMouche, wood block print by Raoul Dufy, 1911, from Le Bestiaire ou Cortége d’Orphée by Guillaume Apollinaire (1918 edition);
Le Lapis, wood block print by Dufy from Le Bestiaire by Apollinaire;
La Chenille, wood block print by Dufy from Le Bestiaire by Apollinaire;
L’Écrivisse, wood block print by Dufy from Le Bestiaire by Apollinaire;
La Carp, wood block print by Dufy from Le Bestiaire by Apollinaire;
Le Paon, wood block print by Dufy from Le Bestiaire by Apollinaire (Images from University of Wisconsin, digitized by Google, here).]

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