Rhythm n°1, mural for the Salon des Tuileries
Oil on canvas
The City of Paris Museum of Modern art owns a representative selection of works by Robert Delaunay, which entered the collection as the result of purchases by the City from 1937 onwards or donations.
Following in the footsteps of certain colour theorists (Michel-Eugène Chevreul, Ogden Rood), prior to World War I, Delaunay was pursuing experiments into painting based on the law of contrasting colours which develop with time and can be perceived simultaneously. This particular type of Cubism, dubbed Orphism by Apollinaire, which creates the illusion of movement, is applied to motifs of a modern world experiencing rapid growth: the Eiffel tower, rotating aircraft propellers, sport.
In 1930, Delaunay returned to non object-based art with his Rhythms and Endless Rhythms in which colour alone expresses itself, determining the rhythms of the shapes by its organisation, proportions and spatial relationships. The International Exhibition in 1937 was an opportunity for many artists to attract commissions. Encouraged by the work of his wife, Sonia Terk, a painter and designer of “simultaneous” furniture and fabrics, he had been thinking for some time of abandoning easel painting in favour of art involving every type of space in everyday life. In collaboration with the architect Félix Aublet, Delaunay was commissioned to produce a large group of murals for the Railway Pavilion and the Air and Aeronautics Pavilion, which proved very popular with the public.
The following year, Albert Gleizes, Jacques Villon, André Lhote and Sonia and Robert Delaunay received commissions to produce large paintings to decorate the Sculpture hall. These huge compositions, exhibited in 1939 at the exhibition staged by the Réalités Nouvelles society at the Galerie Charpentier (considered to be the Salon for abstract art), were subsequently donated to the City of Paris. The dynamic potential of the coloured discs which seem to move before the eyes are used to give the composition its rhythm. A “synchromic” effect occurs when the vision is set in motion by the interplay of curves and counter curves, by the discs with concentric circles of different thicknesses which offset each other, and especially by contrasting complementary colours (red/green, blue/orange) and dissonances (red/blue ; pink/red/rouge, etc.). These canvases, for which the museum also owns the sketches, represent the culmination of Delaunay’s research prior to his premature death in 1941.