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T03567 Landscape study for ‘The Kessler Family on Horseback’ 1931
Gouache on paper 19 3/4 × 26 (503 × 660)
Bequeathed by Mrs A.F. Kessler 1983
Prov: Mrs Kessler (purchased from the artist)
Exh: The Kessler Collection, Wildenstein Gallery, October–November 1948 (12, as ‘Study of Trees’); The Kessler Bequest, Tate Gallery, February–April 1984 (not numbered, repr.)
Lit: Bernard Dorival, ‘Raoul Dufy et le Portrait’, La Revue des Arts, V, no.3, 1955, pp.175–80, repr.p.177; Fanny Guillon-Laffaille, Raoul Dufy: Catalogue Raisonné des Aquarelles, Gouaches et Pastels, Paris, 1981, I, no.880, p.321, repr. as ‘Etude du Paysage de “La Famille à Kessler Cheval”’ 1932; Bryan Robertson, ‘An Introduction to Dufy’, Raoul Dufy 1877–1953, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, 1983, p.54
Mr J.B.A. Kessler had the idea in 1930 of commissioning a family portrait of himself, his wife and their five daughters on horseback (as they were all very keen on horses and riding); Mrs Kessler agreed provided she could choose the artist. On the advice of one of their French friends, Marcel Kapferer, who was the previous owner of Dufy's ‘Harvest’, she decided to ask Raoul Dufy, who was known for paintings of race-course scenes and had also made a few portraits of single figures.
Dufy, who had never painted a group portrait before or a portrait of someone he did not know already, came to England and stayed for three weeks at the Kesslers' country house, Gunthorpe, at Oakham in Rutland, both in order to get to know the family and to make preliminary studies. He executed a number of studies in watercolour and oil, and in the form of pen-and-ink drawings, of Mr and Mrs Kessler and their daughters both individually and as a group, posing on their horses under the trees, and of the horses in their stables. The gouache of the landscape setting and the one T03566 showing the whole composition were the most complete. Then in the autumn of 1931 he painted a large group portrait from these studies in his studio in Paris. However Mrs Kessler thought that the finished picture was too sketchy and that the group needed a little more space around it and in front of it, and a shade more detail in the face. Dufy therefore agreed to make another, and returned to London in 1932, staying at the Savoy Hotel, and painted a second, more finished and detailed version in this country.
The first version was presented by Mme Dufy to the Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1954, the year after the artist's death. The second, which is the one acquired by Mrs Kessler, is also included in her gift to the Tate, but is still in the possession of one of her cousins, who has a life interest. They are both exceptionally large by Dufy's standards, measuring 213 × 260 cm. and 214 × 275 cm. respectively.
The first version, which now belongs to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centres Georges Pompidou, was included in the Dufy exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, which closed on 5 February 1984.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986