The authenticity of these works by Robert and Sonia Delaunay has been confirmed by Richard Riss.
verso of the present work
Sonia Delaunay 1885-1979
RYTHME COLORÉ (DISQUES)
Signed Sonia Delaunay and dated 1930 (lower right)
Oil on canvas
131 by 97cm. 51 1/2 by 38 1/8 in.
Painted in 1930.
Main fragment (left side):
Sonia Delaunay Paris (until at least 1963)
E. Hostettler, Bern
Private Collection, Switzerland (by descent from the above. Sold: Christie's, London, 30th November 1987, lot 58)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Smaller fragment (right side):
Philippe Grosjean, Geneva
Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 1988
The two parts were reunited at the Kunsthaus, Zurich in 1988-89.
'Aviation held a great fascination for both Delaunay and myself in 1913 and 1914. The heroics of Latham, Blériot fascinated us.' -- Sonia Delaunay-Terk
Robert Delaunay executed several oils as well as preparatory sketches on the subject of Hommage à Blériot, including the monumental version now in the collection of Kunstmuseum, Basel. The present work consists of two fragments from the second largest version, which was subsequently cut up by the artist, and which is known today in its entirety only from a black-and-white photograph. The top half of the initial canvas was repainted by Robert Delaunay in 1930. The bottom half was separated into two fragments, which were subsequently reunited in 1989, bringing the picture to its current state. The larger of those two fragments was used by Sonia Delaunay, who painted Rythme coloré (disques) on the reverse in 1930. This was one of her first compositions from the Rythmes-Couleur series, which was to become the major subject throughout her career.
Hommage à Blériot no. 2 belongs to a small group of pivotal works Robert Delaunay executed in 1913-14, inspired by Louis Blériot, a French aviator and engineer who was the first to cross the English Channel in an aircraft, flying from Calais to Dover in July 1909. The event caused a great deal of excitement, was widely reported by the media, and cheered by the public on both sides of the channel. Delaunay was fascinated by this great feat of engineering; indeed, themes of mechanical techology played an important role in the aesthetic of Orphism. His works on the subject, reflecting his fascination with this powerful symbol of technological advances of his time, was the subject of a major exhibition in Kunstmuseum, Basel in 2008, in which the present work was included.
As Roland Wetzel explained in the exhibition catalogue: 'One of the achievements of the second wave of industrial revolution was the rapid development of the transportation system. As the airspace was being conquered, pilots and engineers became the heroes of a new era. [...] For the pioneers of French aviation, crossing the English Channel was an event with special significance as it allowed them to demonstrate that the ingenuity of French constructors had eliminated the technical deficit in comparison to the advances of the American Wright brothers' (R. Wetzel in Robert Delaunay. Hommage à Blériot (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 7).
Fig. 1, Robert Delaunay, Hommage à Blériot No. 2, 1913-14, distemper on canvas. Photograph of the integral work before it was cut.
Fig. 2, Robert Delaunay, Hommage à Blériot, 1913-14, distemper on canvas, Kunstmuseum, Basel
Fig. 3, Robert Delaunay in front of another version of Hommage à Blériot. Photograph by T. Bonney
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