A Cape Town District Six Museum tagged image from photographer – pedrosimoes7 as published on Flickr.
La grande portugaise (1916) – Robert Delaunay (1885 – 1941)
Image by pedrosimoes7
Centro de Arte Moderna (CAM), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisboa, Portugal
Materials : Oil and wax on canvas
Collection: Carmen Thyssen-Bomemisza
Robert Delaunay (12 April 1885 – 25 October 1941) was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. His later works were more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee. His key influence related to bold use of colour, and a clear love of experimentation with both depth and tone.
Robert Delaunay was born in Paris, the son of George Delaunay and countess Berthe Félicie de Rose. While he was a child, Delaunay’s parents divorced, and he was raised by his mother’s sister Marie and her husband Charles Damour, in La Ronchère near Bourges. When he failed his final exam and said he wanted to become a painter, his uncle in 1902 sent him to Ronsin’s atelier to study decorative arts in the Belleville district of Paris.
At age 19 he left Ronsin to focus entirely on painting and contributed six works to the Salon des Indépendants in 1904.
He traveled to Brittany where he was influenced by the group of Pont-Aven and in 1906 contributed works he painted in Brittany to the 22nd Salon des Indépendants, where he met Henri Rousseau.
Delaunay formed a close friendship at this time with Jean Metzinger, with whom he shared an exhibition at a gallery run by Berthe Weill early in 1907. The two of them were singled out by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1907 as Divisionists who used large, mosaic-like ‘cubes’ to construct small but highly symbolic compositions.
Robert Herbert writes: "Metzinger’s Neo-Impressionist period was somewhat longer than that of his close friend Delaunay… The height of his Neo-Impressionist work was in 1906 and 1907, when he and Delaunay did portraits of each other (Art market, London, and Museum of Fine Arts Houston) in prominent rectangles of pigment. (In the sky of Coucher de soleil no. 1, 1906–07, Collection Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, is the solar disk which Delaunay was later to make into a personal emblem). "Herbert describes the vibrating image of the sun in Metzinger’s painting, and so too of Delaunay’s Paysage au disque (1906–07), as "an homage to the decomposition of spectral light that lay at the heart of Neo-Impressionist color theory…"
Metzinger, followed closely by Delaunay—the two often painting together in 1906 and 1907—would develop a new sub-style of Neo-Impressionism that had great significance shortly thereafter within the context of their Cubist works. Piet Mondrian developed a similar mosaic-like Divisionist technique circa 1909. The Futurists later (1909–1916) would incorporate the style, under the influence of Gino Severini’s Parisian works (from 1907 onward), into their dynamic paintings and sculpture.
TOWARDS ABSTRACTION (1908–1913)
At the prime of his career he painted the known series that included: the Saint-Sévrin series (1909–10); the City series (1909–11); the Eiffel Tower series (1909–12); the City of Paris series (1911–12); the Window series (1912–14); the Cardiff Team series (1913); the Circular Forms series (1913); and The First Disk (1913).
Delaunay is most closely identified with Orphism. From 1912 to 1914, he painted nonfigurative paintings based on the optical characteristics of brilliant colors that were so dynamic they would function as the form. His theories are mostly concerned with color and light and influenced many including Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Morgan Russell, Patrick Henry Bruce, Der Blaue Reiter, August Macke, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and Lyonel Feininger. Apollinaire was strongly influenced by Delaunay’s theories of color and often quoted from them to explain Orphism. Delaunay’s fixations with color as the expressive and structural means were sustained with his study of color.
His writings on color, which were influenced by scientists and theoreticians, are intuitive and can be sometimes random statements based on the belief that color is a thing in itself with its own powers of expression and form. He believes painting is a purely visual art that depends on intellectual elements, and perception is in the impact of colored light from the eye. The contrasts and harmonies of color produce in the eye simultaneous movements and correspond to movement in nature. Vision becomes the subject of painting.
His early paintings are deeply rooted in Neoimpressionism. Night Scene for example has vigorous activity with the use of lively brushstrokes in bright colors against a dark background. It doesn’t define solid object but the areas that surround them.
Spectral colors of Neoimpressionism were later abandoned, the Eiffel Tower series, were fragmentation of solid objects and their merging with space was learned. Influences in this series were Cézanne, Analytical Cubism, and Futurism. In the Eiffel Tower the interpenetration of tangible objects and surrounding space is accompanies by intense movement of geometric plans that are more dynamic than static equilibrium of Cubist forms.
In 1908, after a term in the military working as a regimental librarian, he met Sonia Terk; at the time she was married to a German art dealer whom she would soon divorce. In 1909, Delaunay began to paint a series of studies of the city of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. The following year, he married Terk, and the couple settled in a studio apartment in Paris, where their son Charles was born in January 1911. At the invitation of Wassily Kandinsky, Delaunay joined The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter), a Munich-based group of abstract artists, in 1911, and his art took a turn for the abstract Delaunay was also successful in Germany, Switzerland, and Russia. He participated in the first Blanc Reiter exhibition in Munich and sold four works. Delaunay’s paintings encouraged an enthusiastic response with Blaue Reiter. The Blaue Reiter connections led to Erwin Ritter von Busse’s article “Robert Delaunay’s Methods of Compositions” which appeared in the 1912 Blaue Reiter Almanac. Delaunay would go to exhibit in February of that year, in the second Blaue Reiter exhibition in Munich and Valet de Carrean in Moscow.
“This happened in 1912. Cubism was in full force. I made paintings that seemed like prisms compared to the Cubism my fellow artists were producing. I was the heretic of Cubism. I had great arguments with my comrades who banned color from their palette, depriving it of all elemental mobility. I was accused of returning to Impressionism, of making decorative paintings, etc.… I felt I had almost reached my goal”.
1912 was a turning point for Delaunay. On March 13 his first major exhibition in Paris closed after two weeks at the Galerie Barbazanges. The exhibition showed forty-six works from his early Impressionist works to his Cubist Eiffel Tower painting from 1909–1911. Art Critic Guillaume Apollinaire praised those works of the exhibition and proclaimed Delaunay as “an artist who has a monumental vision of the world.”
In the March 23, 1912, issue of L’Assiette au Beurre, The first published suggestion that Delaunay had broken with this group of Cubists appeared, in James Burkley’s review of that year’s Salon des Indépendants. Burkley wrote, "The Cubists, who occupy only a room, have multiplied. Their leaders, Picasso and Braque, have not participated in their grouping, and Delaunay, commonly labeled a Cubist, has wished to isolate himself and declare that he has nothing in common with Metzinger or Le Fauconnier.”
With Apollinaire, Delaunay traveled to Berlin in January 1913 for an exhibition of his work at Galerie Der Sturm. On their way back to Paris, the two stayed with August Macke in Bonn, where Macke introduced them to Max Ernst. When his painting La ville de Paris was rejected by the Armory Show as being too big he instructed Samuel Halpert to remove all his works from the show.
SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE YEARS (1914–1920)
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Sonia and Robert were staying in Fontarabie in Spain. They decided not to return to France and settled in Madrid. In August 1915 they moved to Portugal where they shared a home with Samuel Halpert and Eduardo Viana. With Viana and their friends Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (whom the Delaunays had already met in Paris) and José de Almada Negreiros they discussed an artistic partnership. First declared a deserter, Robert was declared unfit for military duty at the French consulate in Vigo on June 13, 1916.
The Russian Revolution brought an end to the financial support Sonia received from her family in Russia, and a different source of income was needed. In 1917 the Delaunays met Sergei Diaghilev in Madrid. Robert designed the stage for his production of Cleopatra (costume design by Sonia Delaunay). Robert Delaunay illustrates Tour Eiffel for Vicente Huidobro.
Paul Poiret refused a business partnership with Sonia in 1920, citing as one of the reasons her marriage to a deserter. The Der Sturm gallery in Berlin showed works by Sonia and Robert from their Portuguese period the same year.
RETURN TO PARIS AND LATER LIFE (1921–1941)
After the war, in 1921, they returned to Paris. Delaunay continued to work in a mostly abstract style. During the 1937 World Fair in Paris, Delaunay participated in the design of the railway and air travel pavilions. When World War II erupted, the Delaunays moved to the Auvergne, in an effort to avoid the invading German forces. Suffering from cancer, Delaunay was unable to endure being moved around, and his health deteriorated. He died from cancer on 25 October 1941 in Montpellier at the age of 56. His body was reburied in 1952 in Gambais.
PORTUGUESE VERSION (CAM)
Por ocasião da sua participação no Salão dos Independentes de 1906, conhece Jean Metzinger, que lhe dá a conhecer o trabalho de Paul Signac e de Henri-Edmond Cross, a partir o qual Delaunay realizará várias telas “divisionistas”. Este termo foi então cunhado por Signac para definir uma técnica pictórica e que cores e tons não são misturados na paleta mas se aplicam directamente no suporte, em pequenas pinceladas justapostas (não forçosamente circulares, como no pontilhismo), criando um efeito visual de maior luminosidade e brilho, e dando à tela uma textura mais vibrátil, indutora da ideia de movimento (por exemplo, Portrait de Henri Carlier, 1906, ou Paysage au disque solaire, 1906-1967). Estas obras revelam o interesse de Delaunay pela criação de uma linguagem pictórica assente na contrastação cromática, já enunciada pela pintura neo-impressionista, e que aprofunda com o estudo das teorias de Eugène Chevreul sobre o comportamento da cor. Por outro lado, a representação do disco solar indicia a futura utilização de círculos coloridos, utilizados como o principal elemento estruturante, formal e simbolicamente, das suas composições.
Em 1907, conhece Sonia Terk, com quem virá a casar-se três anos mais tarde, e vê a exposição póstuma da obra de Cézanne (galeria Bernheim-Jeune).
A série de pinturas sobre o deambulatório da igreja gótica de Saint Séverin, em Paris, iniciada em 1909, constitui a primeira obra magna de Delaunay, em que são exploradas questões relacionadas com a indução no observador da ideia de movimento e de dissolução da forma, tão cara aos cubistas. Nesta série revelam-se os grandes temas trabalhados pelo artista, em torno da luz, da cor e da expressão pictórica do processo de visão enquanto actividade consciente (e é a este nível, mais programático do que estético, que o seu universo plástico se aproximará do de sua mulher, Sonia Delaunay). Estas pinturas estabelecem a reputação de Delaunay, e Kandisky convida-o a participar, com grande sucesso, na primeira exposição do grupo Der Blaue Reiter (O Cavaleiro Azul), na galeria Tannhäuser, Munique, em finais de 1911. Para esta exposição, Delaunay envia, entre outras, uma pintura de 1910, da Torre Eiffel, e que faz parte de uma nova série de trinta trabalhos, iniciada em 1909. Uma das pinturas de maiores dimensões desta série, de 1910-1911, é muito característica do que Delaunay chamava o seu período “destrutivo”, pela aparente dissolução da sólida estrutura arquitectónica através da luz. Por estes mesmos anos, Delaunay interessa-se pelo tema da representação da cidade, trabalhando a partir de postais ilustrados, e submetendo esta imagética a um processo de progressiva abstracção. Mas é apenas em 1912, com as séries das Janelas e das Formas Circulares, já sem qualquer ligação à realidade observada, que Robert Delaunay rompe definitivamente com a janela albertiana, tratando o espaço pictórica como uma superfície plana onde se relacionam forças que têm apenas a ver com o trabalho da cor pura. O poeta Apollinaire apelida esta sua pintura de “Cubismo órfico”, afirmando tratar-se, juntamente com o Cubismo científico, da outra grande tendência da pintura moderna. A esta designação Delaunay prefere a de “pintura pura”, que sublinhava o carácter conceptual do seu trabalho, utilizando ainda o termo “simultaneísmo”, muito usado pelos futuristas.
O rebentar da Primeira Guerra Mundial surpreende o casal Delaunay em Espanha, onde passava férias na companhia do seu filho, Charles, nascido em 1911. De Madrid viajam até Lisboa, acabando por se instalar em Vila do Conde (entre 1905 e 1917). Robert recomeça a pintar, mas opta pelo tratamento de temas figurativos, como no caso da série de sete pinturas de Femme nue lisant, inspiradas na Diana e Calisto de Rubens. Em Vila do Conde, o casal experimenta a pintura a encáustica (pigmentos misturados com cera quente), e Robert pinta várias Naturezas-Mortas Portuguesas, Jarras e Mulheres Portuguesas. Correspondem-se para Amarante com Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, e vêem frequentemente Eduardo Viana, que chega a viver na sua casa de Vila do Conde, conhecendo já desde Paris estes dois artistas portugueses. Relacionam-se igualmente com José de Almada Negreiros e com José Pacheko. Surge o projecto colectivo Corporation Nouvelle, que se destinaria a editar álbuns de arte e poesia, e a organizar exposições “móveis”. Mas o projecto não avança e Robert e Sonia são os únicos a participar numa exposição em Estocolmo, em 1916. Entre 1917 e 1921, o casal Delaunay viverá em Espanha. De regresso a Paris, Robert expõe novamente em Estocolmo e organiza uma grande exposição individual em Paris, na galeria Paul Guillaume, em 1922. Segue-se um período extremamente fértil, em que retoma temas de trabalhos antigos, alguns dos quais desaparecidos durante a guerra, e realiza inúmeros retratos de poetas, compositores, escritores, seus amigos. É convidado a participar com pinturas murais na Exposição Internacional de Artes Decorativas, de 1925; expõe na Alemanha e na Áustria.
Em 1930, retoma a pintura abstracionista, em grandes composições em que reaparecem as formas circulares e que se intitulam Rythmes joie de vivre e Rythme sans fin. Realiza os primeiros relevos e explora novos materiais pictóricos, como a areia, o gesso, o cimento, a cortiça. A última década da sua vida é a da sua consagração como pintor. Participa com seis telas na importante exposição Cubism & Abstract Art (MoMA, Nova Iorque, 1936), dirige a decoração dos Pavilhões dos Caminhos-de-Ferro e do Ar na Exposição Internacional de Paris, 1937, e vários dos seus trabalhos são adquiridos pelo Estado francês. Em 1938, executa as suas últimas pinturas: três grandes painéis para o hall de esculturas do Salão das Tulherias. Morre em Outubro de 1941.
Source : CAM
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