Raoul Dufy devoted a large portion of his work to capturing the small pleasures of modern life. Having trained in Le Havre, in 1900 he moved to Paris to study with Léon Bonnat. His first contributions to the Salon des Indépendants (in 1903, 1904 and 1905) reveal a simplified variety of Impressionism, derived from Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. En 1905, however, his viewing of Matisse’s Luxe, calme et volupté led him away from naturalistic Impressionism and to understand, in his own words, the “miracle of imagination at play in line and color.”
The Little Palm Tree was probably painted in 1907. As the title itself indicates, the main subject of the composition is a potted palm tree sitting atop a folding chair. Behind it, a path winds toward a blue door. On either side flowers and shrubbery grow, suggesting an indoor garden. In any case, it is a private, domestic space in which one’s eyes may rest from the intense glare of the light outside. The distinct magenta brushstrokes recall certain Neo-Impressionist canvases or even Matisse’s Luxe, calme et volupté. Meanwhile, Dufy’s use of black (abolished from the palette of the Les Fauves), is striking. Likewise, rather than primary colours, Dufy employs subtle gradations of greens and reds, and the pot’s high vantage point recalls some of the still-lifes by Cézanne, died in October 1906.
Juan Ángel López-Manzanares