On April 12, 1885, French artist Robert Delaunay was born. Together with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, he cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes.
Robert Delauney grew up with his aunt and uncle near Bourges and when he failed his final schooling exam, he declared that he wanted to become a painter. His uncle sent him to Ronsin‘s atelier for decorative arts in Paris. It is assumed that at the age of 19, Delauney decided to completely devote his life to painting. He already managed to contribute several early works to the Salon des Indépendants in 1904. In the following years, Delaunay started becoming friends with the artist Jean Metzinger, with whom he then shared an exhibition. Delauney and Metzinger painted portraits of each other in prominent rectangles of pigment, driven by the Neo-Impressionist movement. However, it is assumed that Metzinger‘s Neo-Impressionist period lasted a lot longer than Delauney’s.
However, Robert Delaunay is most closely identified with Orphism. He started studying color and lighting intensively, influenced by many artists including Macdonald Wright, Morgan Russell, Patrick Bruce, The Blaue Reiter group, August Macke, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and Lyonel Feininger. Delauney became known as an artist, who painted with brilliant colors that increased the dynamic in his pictures dramatically. Delauney also started publishing his theories on color, which were highly influenced by scientists on the one hand, but also turned out to be rather intuitive on the other. Often, statements based on the belief that color is a thing in itself with its own powers of expression and form could be read.
In 1908, Delauney met Sonia Terk, his later wife. In the meantime, the artist began painting several works in the city of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. Delauney’s influence in Switzerland, Russia, and Germany grew as well and he was invited to join the Munich based group ‘Der Blaue Reiter‘. The artist traveled to Berlin in 1913 for an exhibition of his work at Galerie Der Sturm. However, Delauney’s influence soon began to spread across Europe. When World War I started, the artist couple traveled to Spain and immediately decided not to return to France for a while. They moved to Portugal the year after, while Robert was declared a deserter. However, he was later declared unfit for military duty. Next bad news did not take long. Due to the Russian Revolution, Sonia was no longer financially supported by her family. When trying to engage a working relationship with Paul Poiret, it is said that he refused a cooperation in 1920 due to her marriage with a ‘deserter‘. The couple returned to France three years after the war and Robert continued painting in increasingly abstract styles.
Robert and Sonia Delaunay are today known for “relaunching the use of color during the monochromatic phase of Cubism“. Together they became key figures in the movement, especially their early works ‘Finnish Girl’ (Sonia) and ‘Paysage au disque’ (Robert) played a major role. In Robert’s Eiffel Town Series, the subject is portrayed as if seen from several viewpoints at once, adapting the concept of mobile perspective by Metzinger. In 1913 the Delaunays showed their works in the Salon des Indépendants and the Herbst Salon, the latter being the first Orphist Salon, which also hosted works by Picabia, Metzinger, Gleizes, Léger, and Futurist painters. Unlike others associated with Orphism, the Delaunays would return to this style throughout their lives.
At yovisto academic video search, you may be interested in an entertaining lecture by Dr. Sherry Buckberrough about ‘Sonia Delaunay and The New Woman‘.
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