Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Dufy's Electricity Fairy

When the Paris Electricity Company were looking for an artist to create a vast mural illustrating the wonders of Electricity for the concave wall of the Palace of Light and Electricity at the 1937 International Exhibition, their thoughts turned - amazingly - to Raoul Dufy (born on this day in 1877).
 Dufy, an artist best known for his charming, freely painted Riviera scenes, full of colour, life and gaiety - and for delightful flower paintings, such as the one above - was a painter whose works seemed to have no higher ambition than to give pleasure (and why not?). Indeed Gertrude Stein declared that 'Dufy is pleasure.' However, he rose to the challenge of the electricity company's serious and ambitious commission with relish, planning and executing The Electricity Fairy, a massive scheme inspired by Lucretius's De Rerum Natura and incorporating Olympian deities, 110 portraits of electrical scientists and engineers, a huge power plant and all manner of electricity-related technology, and an orchestra of the world's great cities, amid a range of Dufy's more familiar favourite subjects. It was all painted on 250 panels, using a specially formulated quick-drying transparent oil paint, and the whole thing - all  600 square metres of it, one of the largest paintings in the world - was completed in 10 months. It now resides in the Museum of Modern Art in Paris - and you can take a virtual tour of it here. 'Wow' is indeed the word.

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