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" At the beginning of 1925, Dr. Tzanck decided to decongest his strong collection of a thousand works. The sale determines the rating of contemporary artists: FF5,000 for Derain and Dufresne, a little less for Dufy and Marquet, FF1,500 for Modigliani and Van Dongen" (Michel Charzat, La Jeune Peinture Française)


Charles Dufresne is one of the major painters of the early 20th century in France. Born November 23, 1876 in a family of sailors and fishermen from Granville and Chausey Islands, he leaves school in 1887 and doesnot an apprenticeship with an engraver. He receives an academic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the engraving medal class of Hubert Ponscarme, then becomes the assistant of the medalist and sculptor Alexandre Charpentier.

More attracted by painting, he begins to paint in Paris pastel scenes of café-concert, circus and guinguette a little in the spirit of Toulouse-Lautrec. Some of these works are kept in Paris at the Carnavalet museum. He exhibits at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts of which he becomes a member in 1903, and then befriended André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Jean Frelaut and Charles Despiau.

Between 1900 and 1908, he becomes very close to a young American engraver Herbert Lespinasse, whom he accompanies to Italy on a long journey in 1903. During this stay, they spend a few days at the Villa Medici in Rome. During the summer of 1908, he will be invited by Jean Frélaut in Brittany and meets Henry de Waroquier.

In 1910, he competes with a pastel for the Abd-el-Tif prize that he wins. He resides for two years at the villa Abd-el-Tif in Algiers. Free from all material constraints, he discovers the light and the colors of North Africa as well as a modern approach of the artistic practice. He then passes from pastel to watercolor to translate his wonder at this oriental dream, then oil painting. Decisive, these two years will mark his career in an indelible way. Returning to Paris in 1912 in his studio on Île Saint-Louis, he paints in lush colors oriental scenes from his imagination and memories. Just before the First World War, he is influenced by some new schools, his forms are simplified, his colors become darker.

In 1914, Dufresne is mobilized. Gravely hit by the gas, he is transferred to the camouflage section of the army with Charles Despiau, Roger de La Fresnaye and the poet Charles Vildrac under the orders of Dunoyer de Segonzac. At that time he excells in the art of cubist war scenes.

He returns from the war with a darker palette and a post-cubist style. Between 1918 and 1921, he paints many portraits, landscapes of Normandy and still lifes. In 1921, Jacques Rouché, director of the Paris Opera, commissiones him to decorate the Antar ballet. In 1923, he is one of the co-founders of the Salon des Tuileries.

"Paul Fort, Maurice Chevrier and I missed very little programs at Gaîté-Montparnasse where we often followed painters such as Maurice Asselin and Charles Dufresne." Forty sous were entitled to an armchair orchestra, a eau de vie with cherry and songs. It did not cost much more for circle boxes. One of the painters, almost always Dufresne, wanting to take sketches, from the stage to the room, cluttered with more or less material "(André Salmon, Montparnasse).

It was between 1921 and 1923 that his friends Louis Süe and André Mare, creators of the Compagnie des Arts Français, commissioned him tapestry cartoons on the theme of Paul and Virginia. Designed to cover seats in living room furniture, weaving is tedious and expensive, as his compositions revolutionize traditional tapestry. The collector Charles Pacquement will fall under the charm of the sofa and will commission the complete realization of the set to be presented at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts and Industrial in Paris in 1925, where he is a great success.

He teaches at the Scandinavian Academy to painters like Maria Elena Vieira da Silva or Jacques Despierre.

From 1930, his colors become definitely shimmering and he paints religious scenes, mythological, hunts wildcat, or beach.

" In November 1925, the fashion designer Paul Poiret must auction his collection of paintings ... Still lifes establish the rating of Dufresne (FF19,000), Picasso (FF11,200) and Boussingault (FF3,800) " (Michel Charzat, La Jeune Peinture Française)

In 1936, Guillaume Janneau, director of the Mobilier national, commissioned him to compose tapestry boxes for a Rollin's piece of furniture on the theme of La Plage or the Pleasures of Summer. This sofa is now deposited in the Constitutional Council.

The same year, in order to prepare for the World Exhibition of 1937, he is in charge of the decoration of two panels in the big foyer of the palace of Chaillot, and also realizes two screens on the theme of amazons integrated in "a French Embassy" of Louis Sue, on the stand of the pavilion of the decorating artists. For his last commission of the French State in 1938 he paints five large murals for the amphitheater of the Faculty of Pharmacy of Paris that he finishes just before dying on August 8, 1939 in La Seyne-sur-Mer.

The Venice Biennale pays tribute to him in 1938 by devoting an entire room to him.

" Unrecognized? Come on, he is one of the 20th century French painters best represented in the public collections. At least 80 museums around the world, including 20 in the United States " (Michel Charzat)

If you are interested in the painter's work, I invite you to continue reading this page. But leave the word to Michel Charzat in his book "The young French painting" published by Editions Hazan in 2010:

"Dufresne is not an artist who can peremptorily conclude. Unrecognized. Come on, he is one of the best-represented French painters of the twentieth century in at least 80 museums around the world, including twenty United States. Unclassifiable, certainly, with this intricacy of styles that blurs the tracks. Uneven, certainly, because he leaves masterpieces and a considerable number of works on canvas and on paper accomplished. But also drafts of less frequent, those that circulate frequently in public auction. Should we be surprised?

Demanding, fiercely independent, Dufresne tried to overcome the contradictions of the pictorial modes of the time in which he lived. His work illustrates the infirmity and strength of art in the early twentieth century. Dufresne is, all things considered, a master of the antinomies of modern art. Failing to overcome them, he had the ambition to tame the great artistic oppositions of the painting of his time. Opposition between realism and unrealism; he never abandons objectivity, needing the spectacle of reality, for example from the sight of the palm tree in his garden to reinvent the Orient. But constantly it overflows the realism by his imaginary which adventure him at the borders of the unrealism, the expressionism and the abtraction. Opposition between Cubism and Fauvism: from this one he retains from it expressiveness and pure color; from that one the method that allows him to control his passion. Opposition between the avant-garde and tradition: his nonacademic clacissism uses certain bold pictorial techniques, especially his scratches taken up by his students Gruber and Vieira da Silva and his mixed techniques, based on diluted oils of gasoline . Finally opposition between painting easel and large decoration: Dufresne refuses to make a distinction between a painting or a drawing and a decoration. So his engravings have a monumental aspect and his great compositions retain the seduction of the detail of a painting easel.

"The future will undoubtedly say: He was a great painter named Charles Dufresne and on which few documents remain" wrote Roger-Marx the day after his disappearance. Seventy years later, we remain suspended to the verdict of posterity. Because nothing, or almost nothing, allowed to (re) see the work. We are waiting for the Parisian retrospective, the publication of a reference book or catalogue raisonné which will finally allow us to "force the seigniorial loneliness of Dufresne" (Georges Busse). "


1876: Birth of Charles Dufresne, November 23 in Millemont (Seine and Oise) in a family of sailors who lived in Granville and Chausey Islands. At a very young age, he was apprenticed as an engraver in copper plates, then he entered the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in the studio of François Ponscarme, engraver in medals. Then in the service of Alexandre Charpentier, engraver in medals and sculptor, he begins to sculpture. In the evening, he creates sketches in music halls, café-concerts, circuses and executes paintings based on these drawings: they are pastels and then glue paintings.

1905: Salon de la Société des Artistes Indépendants: he presents pastels. During the summer of 1908, during a stay in Brittany, the engraver Jean Felaut introduced him to Henri de Waroquier.

1910: He won the North Africa Prize, which allowed him to stay for two years at Villa Abd el Tif in Algiers. He meets Frédéric Lung and Louis Meley who will be his collectors. Travel in southern Algeria (Boghari, Bou-Saâda). He becomes a member of the National Society of Fine Arts where he will have the opportunity to exhibit. He began to paint with oil and also made watercolors and gouaches.

1912: Back in Paris, he settles in the Ile Saint-Louis, quai d'Orléans, renting a studio quai d'Anjou, facing the Pont-Marie. This is the time when he meets Dunoyer de Segonzac, Jean-Louis Boussingault and Luc-Albert Moreau.

1913: Mobilized at the 33rd Regiment of Infantry, he is stretcher-nurse, then vaguemestre. Reached by the gas, he is transferred to the Camouflage Section of the Third Army led by Lieutenant Dunoyer de Segonzac. In a Cubist spirit, close to Roger de la Fresnaye, companion in arms, he made drawings and watercolors of war.

1921: Jacques Rouché, Director of the Opera commissioned him sets for Antar, which will be represented at the Opera.

1923: He is one of the founders of the Salon des Tuileries where he exhibited that year.

1924: Süe and Mare order tapestry cartoons on the theme of Paul and Virginia, for furniture to be exhibited in 1925 at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. The tapestries are made in Aubusson by the workshop Lauer de Cogolin.

1936: Ordered by Guillaume Janneau, Director of the national upholstery cabinet of tapestry to decorate a Rollin piece of furniture, on the theme, "The beach and the pleasures of summer" whose tapestries will be entrusted to the Manufacture of Beauvais.

1938: Louis Hautecoeur commissions five canvases for an amphitheater at the Paris School of Pharmacy. Charles Dufresne dies on August 8 in La Seyne (Var). A tribute is paid to the Venice Biennale where an entire room is dedicated to him.

1937: At the exhibition "Masters of independent art", at the Petit Palais, a room is dedicated to him. Order by Georges Huisman, Director of Ecole des Beaux-Arts for two panels for the foyer of the Palais de Chaillot, on the theme "The Theater of Molière".

Les ondines de la Marne (1921)

The stages of contemporary French painting (Bernard Dorival, Gallimard, 1946, extracts from pages 120 to 138, volume 3):

In the three volumes dedicated to French painting for the period from Impressionism to the end of the Second World War, Bernard Dorival devotes a very important chapter to Charles Dufresne, in which he writes:

... "This gift of morality made Dufresne a draftsman of morals. From 1906 to 1910, he crunches scenes of music hall, cafe terraces, circus, dashed of with such a speed that he did not have the time to imitate no one, and that his talent can speak freely. Leaving him the bridle on his neck, this gives him little by little nerve . So, in all his youth production, the best part is whith no doubt his drawings. "

Then about Les ondines de la Marne:

... "Whoever mocks things does not believe in them. Concrete minds like that of Segonzac do not allow such an attitude, which seems to them almost sacrilegious. From the day when Dufresne gave place to irony in his painting, he was on the move to Irrealism, whose Cubist form rallied for a moment his votes, around 1918. It was then that he painted his Ondines de la Marne, and his Beau dimanche en Normandie (...). At that time the love of construction and robustness made Dufresne look for sober, powerful and severe shapes, which are limited by right-angled segments of straight lines and curves that are easy to put into formulas. Sharp lines, which give the objects a great power, as well as in the Still life with the antique torso of the Petit Palais, one of the masterpieces of the author. The drinker seated at the center of Les ondines de la Marne constitutes the most meaningful plastic experience of the painter in this field; his forearm formed by a cylinder fits into the ovoid sphere of the upper arm; his bowler hat draws a semicircle; the straight lines of his jacket are connected to those of his head by a regular curve, and his mustaches are turned up in curves no less geometrical. Such forms weigh so heavily that nothing can move them (...) Dufresne gave the actors of the scene one of these attitudes unequivocal nor unforeseen, hieratic and immense, and suitable to confer on them a surprising nobility (...) What are they doing this man and these women whom the caprice of the painter has collected, where are they? Under an arbor of Joinville-le-Pont? On a support rather. They do nothing but furnish it, but furnish it completely, and according to a scheme dear to their author. This scheme consists of a transverse band held in place by two opposite, equal, rectangle triangles, one in the lower right corner, the other in the upper left corner. So, these four figures, each of which could had filled a painting, fill the overcrowded canvas. The artist took care, however, to introduce, among these filled parts, voids, which occupy a larger and larger place, as one climbs from the bottom to the top, and that one goes from the right to the left of the canvas. The triangle of the right is filled by the extended bather, so full that there is no free space between this powerful figure and the hypotenuse of the triangl to which are tangent his head, his knees and his feet. Here is one, at the top right, between the waitress and the frame, to which another responds, its symmetrical exactly, in the lower left. And the figure of the bourgeois is separated from those who counterbalance him on both sides, by two voids that isolate him and highlight his plastic function of pivot of the composition (...) Like some Cubists, Dufresne fills his canvas until burst.

... "Stylization of the drawing, geometrical treatment of the form, rigor of the composition, stuffing of the painting, Les ondines de la Marne still show other cubist characters. (...) Dufresne does not resort probably to the subterfuges of Picasso: unfolding, rotation, superimposition of plans ... He does not want to go beyond the representation (...) The back and the croup of the extended woman, the shoulders and the breasts of the bather have all their weight, all their rotundity ... "

... "Spatial depth can not be matched with respect of the plan, so Dufresne is very careful to avoid it, forgetful of the rules of perspective and indifferent to the game of values, thus creating neither geometric space of Florentines, or the one, airy, of the Impressionists. This condemned himself to give up, on the one hand, to translate the luminous envelope, and to seek the ornament, on the other hand. Compare Les ondines de la Marne with analogous scenes treated by the Impressionists or by their descendants, Le déjeuner des canotiers by Renoir, Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte de Seurat; that they are even confronted with Les demoiselles de la Seine by Courbet; and one will immediately begin to pant in Dufresne's world, to grope there, like a man in the night. There is no air in his painting, and hardly any light, or a special light, specifically pictorial, as far from the light of day as the artificial lights, a black light that does not serve to illuminate the forms, but only to emphasize its presence. We therefore conceive the special look of the Dufresne color. No dazzling hues like Renoir's, no delicate harmonies like Seurat's, no sturdy tones as those of Courbet: a world of dull lands, where, sometimes, rumble blotchy reds and muffled greens; a hypercubist puritanism of palette. "

... "But if the Ondines owe to Cubism all these characteristics, they present others by which they oppose it (...) For those (Braque and Picasso, NFTG*), it is art, and it is man for him (Dufresne, NFTG*). (...) He gives his painting a moral significance that prevents it from adhering absolutely to the inhuman aesthetics of Cubism. Dufresne's paintings are not only a collection of forms, they are also images of life and judgment on it (...) His forms define a character, a society and a time. "

Finally, in a general way:

"His sketches before 1910 already showed stylizations (...) But what was only presentiment before the cure of Cubism then became a certainty, a certainty that will impose so much on Dufresne that he will always give his forms a geometrical frame (...) But Cubism teaches him especially that the truth of the art is not that of the life. The world has its reasons that the art does not know. To describe the truth of the world, to render account of his reasons, it is artistically lying (...) The artist must invent. From this conclusion, Dufresne had two consequences: first he never tried to give in his painting a copy of the lens; his art is not descriptive, but allusive, it does not represent, it translates, and then the artist realized that he could legitimately give free rein to his imagination and that his art would be more authentic. Sso he did not hesitate to let speak the more original in him: his imaginative fantasy. "

... "It is mainly North Africa that provides him with his themes. He had lived there from 1910 to 1912 as a boarder at Villa Abd-el-Tif ** near Algiers, and it was there that he suddenly found himself. Africa had revealed it to itself, and by 1912 Dufresne had become Dufresne.

Action capital, but curious, and it is important to specify the terms. Although the painter had exposed in 1914 a Spahi that caused a sensation, it is not the Orientalist that the Maghreb gave birth to him. Whether the influence of war had thwarted that of Algeria, or a slow maturation was the law of Dufresne, the painter, when he discovered himself, seemed to have forgotten Africa, that nothing recalled in his first masterpieces, those in his cubist way. It was only long after he left Algiers in 1920 that the artist asked North Africa about the subjects of his paintings. But can it be said that he asked him subjects? It would be more accurate to write: pretexts. It is so long since he left this land that he has assimilated his memories enough to make them an integral part of himself, and by painting their colorful image, he creates a poetic work and not at all descriptive. Dufresne is opposed to orthodox Orientalists, to Dinet for example. They are not truthful spectacles which he paints, of those scenes which retain the painters by a picturesque of bad quality. The life of the Maghreb transfigured by memory is only the springboard of his dream, and there is no essential difference between his imaginary scenes illustrating the fable or the story and those inspired by african life.

(...) If these drawings intended for the elaboration of his compositions copy the reality with an impassive objectivity, his imagination takes again its rights, when he approaches the elaborated work (...) Villa Abd-el-Tif has started going his imagination, which, after a departure slowed by circumstances, political events, the artistic milieu, began at full speed, after 1921, for a rocket-trip, that death alone will interrupt. After - and below Delacroix - Dufresne is the visionary of North Africa, the lyrical in which she triggered the dream. "


* NFTG : Notice From The Gallery

** small palace located in the countryside of the municipality of Algiers which hosted from 1907 to 1962 painters from metropolis on the premise of the Villa Medici in Rome and, later, the Casa Velazquez in Madrid. The Abd-el-Tif prize, awarded by competition, created in 1907, made it an institution that has contributed much to the artistic influence of Algeria.



Some exhibitions among countless:

1905: Paris, Salon de la Société des artistes indépendants

1922: Paris, Barbazanges Gallery

1923: Paris, Salon of Tuileries

1929: United States, Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, "French Paintings of the 19th and 20th Centuries"

1930: Paris, Georges Petit Gallery, "100 years of French Painting"

1930: United States, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Painting in Paris

1931: Paris, Dru Gallery, "Paintings, gouaches and pastels by Charles Dufresne"

1933 and 1936: United States, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Annual International Exhibition

1937: Paris, Petit Palais, « Les Maîtres de l'Art Indépendant 1895-1937 »

1937: Paris, National School of Fine Arts, "Orders of the State"

1938: Paris, gallery of New Essor, "models of the orders of the State to Charles Dufresne"

1938: Italy, Venice Biennale, "Tribute to Charles Dufresne"

1938: The Netherlands, The Hague, Municipal Museum, "The East and Algeria in French Art"

1942: Paris, galerie de France

1944: Paris, museum of the Orangery, "Cards and modern tapestries of the national manufactures"

1947: Algeria, Algiers, National Museum of Fine Arts, "Charles Dufresne and Jean Launois"

1966: Great Britain, London, Sphinx Gallery, "Dufresne Paintings & Watercolors"

1971: United States, New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, "Charles Dufresne, A Retrospective Exhibition"

1972: Swiss, Lausanne, Paul Valloton Gallery, "Charles Dufresne Retrospective Exhibition"

1975: Paris, René Drouet Gallery, "Tribute to Dufresne"

1987: Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, « L'art indépendant »

1987-1988: Troyes, Museum of Modern Art, "Charles Dufresne, Retrospective"

1988: Granville, Museum of Modern Art Richard Anacréon, "Charles Dufresne, Homage to his country of origin"

1994: Paris, National Library, "Charles Dufresne: The engraved work"

2000: Paris, Zlotowski gallery, Charles Dufresne

2001: Paris, Claude Guillemot gallery "Charles Dufresne, works on paper"

2009: Paris, Galerie des Gobelins, National furniture, "Elegance and Modernity: 1908-1958", Sofa The Pleasures of the Beach, tapestry cartoons of Charles Dufresne on a Rollin furniture

2012: Saint-Tropez, Annonciade museum, "Charles Dufresne, an oriental dream"

2012: Metz, Center Pompidou, "1917", three works from the national collections dated 1917

2014: Saint-Tropez, Museum of the Annonciade, "The color under the light of the Orient: from Delacroix to Matisse"


André Lhote, "Charles Dufresne", in The New French Review, 26th year, No. 301, October 1938, p. 686

François Fosca, Charles Dufresne, Library of Arts, Lausanne, 1958

Charles Dufresne 1876-1938, catalog of the retrospective at the museum of modern art of Troyes, 1987

Charles Dufresne, Homage to his country of origin, catalog of the exhibition in Granville, 1988

Thomas Dufresne, "Catalog raisonné of the engraved work of Charles Dufresne", in Nouvelles de l'estampe, No. 134, 1994, p. 3-40

Michel Charzat, La Jeune Peinture Française : 1910-1940, une époque, un art de vivre, 2010

Charles Dufresne, an oriental dream, catalog of the exhibition of the Annonciade museum in Saint Tropez, 2012

Auction results

The record, that we know, of works by Charles Dufresne in public auction was established at Sotheby's on November 17, 2004 in Paris. € 74,400 + 25% fee, or € 93,000 for a 130 x 161 cm oil on canvas entitled "Musique dans l'oasis". The actualized price in May 2018: € 110,390 or $ 161,250 USD.

Then "Les chevaux de bois aux Champs-Elysées" (FF300,000 fdvi, € 43,500) oil on canvas at Drouot, Paris in 1990, "La vie recommence" (FF237,500 fdvi, € 35,700) oil on canvas at Drouot, Paris, in 1993, etc.

You will find below other results with photos. To calculate the actualized pricet, use a currency converter with conversion in the past.

Sotheby's - November 17, 2004 - Paris

Musique dans l'oasis

hst 130 x 161 cm

Realized price: € 74,400, or € 93,000 fdvi

€ 110.39 updated May 2018

Realized price: € 37,700 fdvi

Retour de chasse

hst 211 x 292 cm

Artcurial - November 28, 2017 - Paris

Millon - April 20, 2012 - Paris

La coiffure et la toilette

hst 190 x 130 cm

Realized price: € 20,000, ie € 25,000 fdvi

Compotier et bouquet

hst 61 x 50 cm

Realized price: € 18,500, or € 23,100 fdvi

€ 26.650 updated in May 2018

February 4, 2007 - Troyes