Robert Delaunay 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 color, and a clear love of experimentation of both depth and tone.
Raised by his aunt and her husband, when in 1902, he failed his final exam and said he wanted to become a painter, his uncle sent him to Ronsin's atelier for decorative arts in the Belleville section 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. In 1908 he met Sonia Terk whom he marry the following year. The couple settled in a studio apartment in Paris.
Artist Robert 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 the Americans, Macdonald Wright, Morgan Russell, Patrick Bruce, The Blaue Reiter group, August Macke, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and Lyonel Feininger.
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 but those 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.
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. 1912 was a turning point for Delaunay, his first major exhibition was held in Paris showing forty-six works from his early Impressionist works to his Cubist Eiffel Tower painting from 1909–1911 but his work commonly labeled a Cubist, is for the first time isolate from the other Cubist.
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Sonia and Robert were in Spain then Portugal and returned to Paris not before 1921. Delaunay continued to work in a mostly abstract style. During the 1937 World Fair in Paris, he 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 at the age of 56. His body was reburied in 1952 in Gambais.
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