Marcel Dyf was a pseudonym of Dreyfus Marcel, who was born in Paris on 7 October 1899 and who died on 15 September 1985 in Bois-d’Arcy.
Marcel’s family lived in Paris, but he spent his childhood holidays in Normandy at Ault, Deauville, and Trouville.
He moved to Arles in 1922 to pursue his calling and he kept a studio there until 1942. He had little formal artistic training but owed much of his inspiration to the great masters of the past such as Rembrandt, whom he particularly admired, Vermeer and Tiepolo.
In Provence, challenged by a new range of colours and light, by new landscapes and images and under the same intense sky that lent its brilliance to Van Gogh’s art, Dyf graduated from painter to artist. Whilst living in Arles, Dyf was commissioned to paint a number of large historical and decorative works, mostly frescoes, in the town halls of Saint Martin-de-Crau and Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, in Arles, in the Museon Arlaten and in the dining hall of the Collège Ampère. He also designed windows for the church of Saint Louis in Marseille.
In 1935 Dyf took on Maximilien Luce’s old studio in the Avenue du Maine on the left bank. Paris hummed with creative vitality in the 1930s and Dyf was both participant and recipient in the atmosphere.
Paris was shattered by the invasion of 1940. Like many others, Dyf left the city and returned to Arles, but he quickly had to abandon his home in the south and he took to the Maquis, entering the Résistance in Corrèze and the Dordogne. After the Liberation he returned to Arles to find the studio reduced to rubble in the fighting. He retreated, heavy-hearted, to Paris but the pull of the Midi was deep-rooted, so in time he returned and made a new base in Saint Paul-de-Vence. Thereafter he divided his time between Paris and the south.
His pictures began to sell through galleries in Cannes, Nice, Marseille and Strasbourg. In Paris he exhibited and sold his paintings through the Salon d’Automne, the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon des Artistes Français.
In the summer of 1954 Dyf met Claudine Godat. Aged 19, she was thirty-six years younger than Dyf and with her long fair hair, clear skin, vivacity and patience, she was what the artist felt to be his perfect model. It was simply love at first sight. In 1956 they married and bought a 16th Century hunting lodge at Bois d’Arcy, near Versailles. This became their main home, but each winter they returned to Provence on painting trips, staying in Saint-Rémy or in the small village of Eygalières.
In 1960, at Claudine’s insistence, they first visited Brittany. They explored widely and finally came upon the Golfe du Morbihan. Dyf was enchanted with this remote, beautiful region. He immediately saw the potential for new subjects, in the still waters of the huge lagoon surrounded by rolling fields of wheat and tiny clusters of slate-roofed cottages, and he knew he must return to paint there.
Dyf could never work in an empty studio, he said that it deadens an artist’s inspiration, so immediately the paintings had left for London, he and Claudine would set off to the west or to the south in search of new inspiration.
Throughout these years Dyf principally painted in three areas: Brittany, Provence, and the Ile de France, although he also travelled in Morocco, Venice, the United States, Holland and England. His artistic legacy will be a lasting one; he painted the landscape of France with an intensity of feeling that entirely matched his personality and with a vigour that never tired.
He exhibited widely in France (Salon des Artistes Français, Salon d’Automne and Salon des Tuileries) and in the USA and Great Britain.