Robert Delaunay

Born 1885. Died 1941.
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Robert Delaunay Biography

In the years leading up to the First World War, French painter Robert Delaunay, along with his wife Sonia, launched the Orphism movement, which synthesized the geometric abstraction of Cubism with the staunch, chromatic juxtapositions of Post Impressionism and the vibrant, acidic colors of Fauvism. He consistently retained a level of figuration in his paintings, integrating iconic symbols from modern life, such as airplanes and the Eiffel Tower, into his abstracted fields of color.

Born in Paris, France, in 1885 to an affluent family, Delaunay first apprenticed in theater design, and studied the decorative arts in Belleville, before contributing six works to the Salon des Indépendants in 1904 at the young age of 19. Following his first foray into the Parisian art scene, he joined the Parisian avant-garde, developed close friendships with Wassily Kandinsky and Fernand Léger, and exhibited often with Jean Metzinger, all the while producing works that greatly influenced later movements such as Futurism and Divisionism. After marrying Sonia Delaunay (née Terk) in 1909, his career expanded significantly; he showed in Blue Rider exhibitions in France, Germany, Russia and Switzerland, and his works garnered particular attention for their prismatic vision of geometry and color. During the First World War, the Delaunays fled to Madrid, Spain, where they were given significant patronage by Sergei Diaghilev: Robert designed the stage sets for Diaghilev’s 1917 production of Cleopatra, and Sonia designed the costumes. Upon their return to Paris following the end of the War, Delaunay briefly experimented with Dadaism and Surrealism, following encouragement from André Breton. Traveling to escape the dangers of the Second World War wore considerably on the artist’s body, which was then suffering from cancer, and likely quickened his 1941 death.

Delaunay’s works occupy the collections of major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Kunstmuseum Basel, and many others.

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Artist Image: Guillaume Piolle