“Painting is by nature a luminous language.” ~Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay (pronunciation) was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, co-founded the Orphism art movement. His later works were more abstract, and he became one of the key figures in the development of Abstract Expressionism.
Delaunay was born in Paris on April 12, 1885 to a wealthy family. When he was a boy, his family moved to the countryside, and he was educated at home. He did not begin to study art until he was 20 years old. Delaunay’s first art teacher was Charles L’Eplattenier, who had also taught Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet. His early work was influenced by Impressionism, as can be seen in his use of bright colors and light brushstrokes. However, he soon began to develop his own style, which was characterized by bold color contrasts and geometric shapes.
In 1910, Delaunay met Sonia Terk, a Ukrainian-born artist who would become his wife and lifelong collaborator. The couple married in 1911 and had two children: son Charles and daughter Marguerite.
He exhibited his work at the Salon d’Automne in 1912, where it was criticized by the Cubists. However, he continued to develop his own style, and in 1913 he had a solo show at the Galerie La Boétie. His work from this period is characterized by its use of concentric circles, which were inspired by the optical experiments of French scientist Eugène Chevreul.
Delaunay was also greatly influenced by Paul Cézanne, who believed that all objects could be reduced to basic geometric shapes. This can be seen in Delaunay’s painting “The Eiffel Tower,” which is composed of a series of concentric circles.
In 1915, Robert and his family moved to Spain, where they remained for several years. During this time, Sonia Delaunay developed an interest in textile design, and she began to produce colorful garments and fabrics. These fabrics would later become known as “Simultaneous Contrasts” and would have a profound influence on the couple’s art.
In 1918, the Delaunays returned to Paris, and Robert resumed his painting career. He became friends with several other artists, including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. In 1919, he co-founded the journal “L’intransigeant,” which was devoted to promoting Cubist and Orphist art.
Orphism was an art movement that Robert and Sonia founded together with the French artist Amédée Ozenfant. Orphism emphasized pure color and geometric forms, and was influenced by Cubism and Futurism.
In 1925, the Delaunays traveled to the United States, where they met with American artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Demuth. They also visited the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which had just opened its doors to the public.They returned to Paris in 1929, where Robert began to experiment with more abstract forms. His work from this period is characterized by its use of light and shadow.
He later co-founded the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), which was devoted to promoting modern art. However, in the early 1930’s, Robert’s health began to decline, and he stopped painting altogether, until his death in 1941. He is credited with being one of the first artists to develop Abstract Expressionism.