Robert Delaunay

Robert Delaunay is a French painter born on 12 April 1885 in Paris and died on 25 October 1941 in Montpellier. With his wife Sonia Delaunay and a few others, he is the founder and principal artisan of the Orphist movement, a branch of Cubism and an important avant-garde movement of the beginning of the twentieth century. His works on color originate from several theories of the law of the simultaneous contrast of colors, formulated by Michel-Eugène Chevreul. By concentrating on the arrangement of colors on canvas, he sought pictorial harmony.

Delaunay is part of a avant-garde generation, particularly prolific in artistic terms between 1912 and 19. He is closely linked (in correspondence, in art, even in friendship) with the poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars, Russian painters Vassily Kandinsky and Michel Larionov, the German painters August Macke or Franz Marc, the Slovak painter Geza Szobel.

After the war, he became friends with the artists of the surrealist movement, of which he realized several portraits, without adopting their points of view and their artistic visions. He will have a strong and lasting friendship with the poet Tristan Tzara.

His name is also associated with the Eiffel Tower, which he saw building when he was four years old, and which he painted many times in his career, using different methods, first neo-impressionist then Cubist, and then with his simultaneous method.

The parents of Robert Victor Felix Delaunay, George and Berthe Delaunay, lived at the time of his birth on April 12, 1885, a noble building on Rue Boissière in Paris in the 16th arrondissement.1 Robert Delaunay quickly opposed his bourgeois education, Mother dressed him excessively, dressed him in English, and thus walked along the avenue des Champs-Élysées. Despite this refusal of bourgeois life, he remained marked by his origins. He is always indifferent to the material aspects of life, and, like Don Quixote, he creates a chivalric conception of life. This character urges him to transform every moment of life into a poetic moment

At the age of four, his parents took him to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889, for which the Eiffel Tower was built, a monument that fascinated the artist throughout his life. He was enthusiastic about modern scientific techniques, notably for speed and electricity. He later visited the 1900 universal exhibition, notably the electricity pavilion. This visit forged his spirit of “painter of modern life”

Robert Delaunay’s parents divorced when he was nine, on 16 May 18 He was then raised by a sister of his mother, Marie de Rose, and her husband, Charles Damour

Very early, he is passionate about flowers. In the castle of La Rongère, in Saint-Éloy-de-Gy, a family holiday, he spent long moments alone in the garden, making sketches of flowers, which are his main natural passion with the sun

The school does not interest him, and he takes advantage of his studies to draw and paint with pastels hidden in his hut. He left school at the age of seventeen, and was engaged as an apprentice in stage design for two years (1902 to 1904), in the workshops of theater designer Eugène Ronsin. It is there that he develops his taste for large surfaces and monumentality, that he is sensitized to the role of light and distortion games perspective of the stage space

He was introduced to painting with his uncle Charles Damour, a traditional painter, far removed from all the theories and movements of his time. Robert Delaunay very often defends his artistic point of view, far removed from that of his uncle, which leads to scenes of burlesque households. “Plates were flying because Robert defended his opinion,” says Sonia Delaunay

In 1904 and 1905, Robert Delaunay realized his first paintings: landscapes and flowers of neo-impressionist and fawn. In 1907, he did his military service in Laon, in the Aisne. He is fascinated by the cathedral, and in fact many sketches. He is assigned to the Auxiliary Service in the Officers’ Library. His comrade-in-waiting, Robert Lotiron, writes that “at the time, Delaunay had a crazy craze for Spinoza, Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Laforge.” On October 20, 1908, he was reformed for “functional disorders of the heart,” and “endocarditis,” and then returned to Paris

In 1906, he participated in the XXI Independent Salon, where he presented many paintings during the previous summer. In 1907, he attended a group of young artists seeking a new art among them Jean Metzinger, Henri Le Fauconnier and Fernand Léger. At the same time, he undertook a great deal of work on monuments in Paris. The result of his research is to propose a personal theory on color, taking as his point of departure his work Paris – Saint – Séverin (1909)

At the beginning of 1909, he met Sonia Stern while they both attended renowned artists. They attended together the triumph of Louis Blériot who crossed the Channel, and together made a stay in the Drôme. She is then married to Wilhelm Uhde, but it is only a white marriage to facilitate the acquisition of French nationality for Sonia. She divorces immediately to remarry on November 15, 1910 with Robert Delaunay, of which she is pregnant On January 18, 1911 a boy is born, Charles. Robert paints a small Eiffel Tower, which he offers to Sonia as an engagement gift

In 1910, influenced by Cubism, notably that of Cézanne, Robert Delaunay reduced his palette of colors to monochrome, then, under the influence of Sonia, he reintroduced the warm colors. In 1912, he turned to Orphism with his series of Windows (preserved in the museum of Grenoble and the Philadelphia Museum of Art). With Sonia Delaunay, he creates simultaneousism, based on the law of simultaneous color contrast. He corresponds with the pioneer of the abstract Vassili Kandinsky, whose theoretical text The Spiritual in Art (which Sonia translates to him from German) will greatly influence and guide him

The two artists also help each other to obtain places in exhibitions and in criticism; They are truly friends. It is thanks to Kandinsky that Delaunay can be exhibited in Moscow, where he presents three untitled works. The year 1912 was full of events for Robert Delaunay: he exhibited in Moscow, Munich, Berlin, Paris, Zurich, became friends with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire (who came to live in his studio during the months of November and December) And Blaise Cendrars, met Paul Klee (with whom he entered a correspondence), Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Henri Le Fauconnier and painted the series of Windows, which marks a major turning point in his work

In 1913, Delaunay went to Berlin to exhibit with Guillaume Apollinaire, and took the opportunity to meet German artists of the time: Franz Marc, Max Ernst and August Macke. “Delaunay and Apollinaire stayed one day and one night . To my delight, their preference has gone to my latest works, “says Paul Klee, who translated Delaunay’s theoretical text” La Lumière “into German, which appeared in the review Der Sturm in January under the title” Über das Licht ” . Apollinaire writes the poem Les Fenêtres, which serves as a preface to the painter’s series of paintings. In February, Alexandra Exter wrote to the couple Delaunay asking them to register at the Salon des Indépendants, as well as Michel Larionov and Nathalie Gontcharoff. Robert Delaunay enters into correspondence with all these artists of the Russian vanguard; It was he who presented them to the French public. At that time, Apollinaire considered that he was the most influential painter with Picasso: “There are new tendencies in modern painting; The most important seem to me, on the one hand, Picasso’s Cubism, and Delaunay’s Orphism on the other. (Guillaume Apollinaire Die Moderne Malerei [Modern painting] in Der Sturm, February 1913)

During this period he painted his paintings in the small town of Louveciennes, where he had a residence with Sonia, and did not go to Paris or abroad until his work was finished, to present it or to see his works Friends painters and poets.

The spouses Delaunay are surprised by the war while they are in Spain. Robert Delaunay tries to get himself incorporated, but he is refused for health reasons. Sonia Delaunay and he will remain throughout the war, and until 1922, in Spain and Portugal. He continues to paint, notably a series on The Portuguese Markets, but also The Still Life and the Nude to the toilet. The Delaunay took advantage of it to spend long days at the Prado Museum, and Robert Delaunay was passionate about the works of Rubens and Greco. When they returned to France, the Dada movement was at its peak.

Back in Paris, the Delaunays frequented many poets and musicians, but few painters, and rubbing shoulders with the surrealist circles, as evidenced by the many portraits of friends made at that time, including those of Tristan Tzara, faithful friend of the decades 1920 and 1930, by André Breton and Philippe Soupault. They are also related to Louis Aragon, Jean Cocteau or Igor Stravinsky, and receive the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. The friendly meetings allow Robert Delaunay to present his literary theories, which he puts on paper later

He repainted the Eiffel Tower several times, for the “giant” lends himself well to his research on the simultaneous contrasts of color. But compared to the towers made in his youth, the work is significantly different

In the 1920s, he diversified his work, focusing, for example, on decorative art with Fernand Léger. He participated in the 1925 exhibition of the Decorative Arts, which summarizes the research of all countries in the field of applied arts. Sonia Delaunay also follows this path, and gets more recognition than him. In the same year he composed the sets of several films

Delaunay returns to abstract orphism with his series Rythme, composed for the most part in 19 This series seems to be the culmination of his research on pictorial harmony. At the same time, he began research on new materials. His work is put forward by an exhibition commented at length by an article by Jean Cassou

The 1937 international exhibition commissioned him to produce huge frescoes and monumental paintings, including those of the air pavilion and the railway. The fresco of the palace of the air is an enlarged representation of a painting of the series Rhythm. He ensures the following year the decoration of the sculpture hall at the Salon des Tuileries, for which he performs three great rhythms which are his last important works

In 1940, he fled the Nazi advance by taking refuge in Montpellier, in the Free Zone near Joseph Delteil. He continues to invest in artistic life. Installed in Mougins, it has constituted a true museum Delaunay with its towers déhancées. The painter Albert Aublet often visited him at the time when he supported the young figurative painter Nicolas de Staël. He was again a victim of lung problems and died on October 25, 1941

The work of Robert Delaunay is generally divided chronologically into two parts: the neo-impressionism of his youth on the one hand, then Orphism, the branch of cubism and the vanguard of abstraction, constituting his maturity, About 1912) on the other hand His work fell into the public domain on 1 January.

Marked first by impressionism and synthesis, Delaunay turned to neo-impressionism after his meeting with Jean Metzinger, who invites him to immerse himself in theoretical writings on color, such as De la loi du Contraste Simultaneous colors of Eugène Chevreul. Such tests convince him that the colors are interdependent and interact with each other according to their distribution in the spectrum. This discovery marks him all his life

Between 1904 and 1906, he made a series of portraits and self-portraits in which he applied the technique of the broad pavement touch to divisionism. At the same time he realized a series of landscapes, always using the divisionist method, of which the famous Paysage au disque, painted in the last days of 1906

In 1906, in Robert Cara’s Portrait, Robert Delaunay already affirmed his singularity in the choice of color arrangement: the dominant green and purple encounter areas of shining red. The violet he applies is not common for the time, and is probably borrowed from the Cross divisionist painter, and his work is influenced by the long discussions with Jean Metzinger

The Windows:
Robert Delaunay goes on to abstract with the series Les Fenêtres, presented from 1912 to 19 It inaugurates a long series of research on the possibility of translating “representative harmony”, by the sole arrangement of colors. Colors replace objects, which have no substance and leave room for light. This passage to abstraction is made after reading the theories of Vassily Kandinsky in his manifest book Du From the Spiritual in Art, and while Guillaume Apollinaire diagnosed in 1912 the birth of a new pictorial art: “The new painters paint Paintings where there is no real subject. “But, unlike Vassily Kandinsky, who gives psychological and mystical content to his works, Robert Delaunay exploits only” the purely physical effect “. He explains himself in Leonardo da Vinci’s text: “The eye is our highest meaning, the one that communicates most closely with our brain, consciousness. The idea of ​​a vital movement of the world and its movement is simultaneity. Our understanding is correlative to our perception. “At that time, Delaunay also did a lot of research on colors and more precisely on the law of simultaneous color contrast. With Sonia Delaunay he creates simultaneousism, a technique that aims to find pictorial harmony through the simultaneous arrangement of colors, and which focuses essentially on the role of light, which is perceived as the original creative principle

The Cardiff Team:
In 1913, after the series Les Fenêtres, Robert Delaunay produced a series called The Cardiff Team, devoted to sport, particularly football-rugby, a sport in full swing at that time. Thus, he chose a subject little treated until then, which responds well to the “modernolatry” of Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire. It is in agreement with the newspapers of the time that praise the “spirit of vitality” of the new generation. The painting depicts a combative vision of modern life, where the cult of action invites us to surpass ourselves

This series is not abstract: rugby players are represented in front of a Ferris wheel and the Eiffel Tower in an assemblage of posters and colors. The decor is resolutely urban: it is the billboard that takes the biggest place on the board. He organizes his painting as a juxtaposition of elements arranged simultaneously. The image of the players seems to come from an English magazine he owned, and the motifs of the Ferris wheel, the billboard and the Eiffel Tower of a postcard that was found in his business. The grouping of the four elements is done thanks to the median line, sinusoidal axis which cuts the painting in two, while making its unit. This axis allows the passage to an architecture devoid of foundations, which seems to fly in the air

Homage to Blériot:
In the following salon, in 1914, Robert Delaunay presents the painting Hommage à Blériot, a veritable manifesto of his simultaneous method. The movements of the canvas are propelled by forms borrowed from aeronautics: biplane, helix. The plane, symbol of the emancipation of man in relation to the Earth, offers Robert Delaunay a pretext to emancipate himself from the codes of traditional painting and to advance towards the “inobjective” and the “painting Pure “. He chooses the plane because it abolishes the notions of distance, and allows the painter to go towards a panoramic ubiquity. It opposes a harmonic plenitude to the descriptive attempts of the past. Likewise, this motif, like that of the Eiffel Tower, allows him to claim to be a painter of modernity. The painter’s preference for the curve is perceptible (contrary to the abstract painters Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian), already affirmed in the series of Flowers (1909), and which will continue in the Circular Forms

Circular shapes and discs:
After presenting his series The Cardiff Team at the Salon des Independants in early 1913, he retired to Louveciennes and began a major series entitled Circular Forms. Through this work, Robert Delaunay wishes to make the power of solar light, a theme he had already sketched in his 1906 Paysage au disque, and lunar irradiation. He describes one of the works in this series as “the first circular painting, the first non-figurative painting.” Through this painting he reveals his interest in scientific theories (in erroneous parts) of Color in the nineteenth century. In the table Circular Forms, Sun 2, the three primary colors: blue, red and yellow, are at the ends of a deformed triangle that gives a sense of rotation of the whole. For Delaunay, this effect results from the turning of colored patterns, descending for blue and ascending for red. Between these primary colors appear secondary colors, obtained by mixing the first: orange, green and purple. The whole swirls around the center, the original and final color, the white. It is not the sun that is represented, but the process of perception by the eye

In August 1913, in Louveciennes, he produced a solo work called Disc (The First Disc), consisting of seven concentric circles divided into four equal segments. While colored circles were numerous in his Circular Forms series, Robert Delaunay concentrated in this painting in the purity of the plane surface; But it is not a detail of a previous work, it is a work in its own right, which is part of Delaunay’s research on pictorial harmony. This work, indisputably non-objective, has a great importance in the history of art

Works in Spain:
While in Spain and Portugal during the war, he renews his themes, moving from the city to popular life in markets or at home, but his artistic technique remains the same. Characters are figuratively drawn, but are surrounded by abstract objects; On the same canvases, the colors burst and are used freely. The light of the Iberian peninsula is much stronger than that of Ile-de-France, from where Robert Delaunay was hardly released, which allows him to observe and render on his paintings a new type of vibration of the colors

Removal of Orphism:
In the 1920s, Robert Delaunay reworked on the Eiffel Tower, in a significantly different way. The tower no longer collapses, but stands up, seen in a low angle, in such a way that it seems to us that it grows in an infinite way. At other times, the tower is seen from the sky and associated with the curves of the Champ de Mars; For these views, he helped himself with aerial photographs. He draws from his composition the dynamism of the rhythm, and the arrangement of unrealistic colors.

In 1925, he participated in the exhibition of decorative arts, for which he decorated the hall of an embassy with Fernand Léger. He chose the theme of The Woman of the Tower, which he reproduced on a panel of more than four meters, and provoked a violent scandal

The many portraits of friends or acquaintances he can in those years are figurative, but Robert Delaunay always uses bright and powerful colors. For example, in the Portrait of Tristan Tzara, the main element is not the poet’s face, but the orange and green scarf he wears around his neck.

Back to Orphism:
Around 1930 there was a reversal that was difficult to explain, prompting Delaunay to return to Orphism, beginning with a series entitled Rythmes, which takes up the Circular Forms produced in the 1910s, in a new and more mature way, inspired by Including the work of Piet Mondrian, and artists grouped under the name of abstraction-geometric (most of which recognized an artistic debt to it). He shows his mastery in the arrangement of colors, and reaches his desired goal in the first Orphic Years: pictorial harmony.

Research on pictorial technique:
At the same time, while he was always content to remain in the classical technique of painting (except for the Decorative Arts), he began to search for new pictorial techniques, which Jean Cassou described in detail in An article published in 1935 in the magazine Art et Décoration: “These coatings, in the composition of which casein predominates, can be applied to cartons or canvases. They can be painted in fresco, oil or To the egg. Delaunay mixes pasta made with cork powders with its casein and thus achieves thicknesses with sawdust. The interest of these materials is that once hardened, they can be used for exteriors and resist atmospheric agents. Delaunay also uses a whole chromatic range of sands, especially the sands of Colorado, which it projects on its casein coatings with an air pistol. The colorings thus obtained are unalterable to light and unaffected by water. Finally, it applies to its coatings varnishes Another material due to the ingenuity of Delaunay is the lacquer stone, which can constitute walls of a varied and seductive coloring. It is a lightweight, non-flammable material that is suitable for use in the navy. It can reach the density of the marble and the strength of the cement: but this is its superiority over the cement, it comprises in itself its coloring. It can also be produced in white surfaces, on which the paint adheres perfectly. It is useless to point out that casein pastes can be arranged in decorative reliefs as complex and free as one likes. “33 Robert Delaunay moved from easel to artistic work on the walls. He explains in the magazine Commune: “I artist, I manual, I make the revolution in the walls. At the moment, I have found new materials that transform the wall, not only externally but in its very substance. Separating man from art? Never. I can not separate man from art since I make him houses! While the fashion was in the easel, I was thinking only of great wall works. ”

The Universal Exhibition of 1937:
These wall works will find their point of view in the International Exhibition of 1937, for which he realizes immense decorations. As early as 1935, he was approached to participate in this gigantic exhibition, but, unlike many artists, he made no candidacy; The attention was drawn to him by an exhibition realized by the magazine Art and decoration, entitled Wallcoverings in relief and colors by Robert Delaunay, in 19 He realizes the decoration of the palace of the railway and the air. For the latter, he reproduces on a large scale his table Rhythm without end. The will was also to bring out the vanguard of its little circle of initiates, and to put it within reach of everyone