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Robert Delaunay (12 April 1885 – 25 October 1941) 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 colour, and a clear love of experimentation of both depth and tone.
At the prime of his career he painted the known series that included: the Saint-Sévrin series (1909-10); the City series (1909-11); the Eiffel Tower series (1909-12); the City of Paris series (1911-12); the Window series (1912-14); the Cardiff Team series (1913); the Circular Forms series (1913); and The First Disk (1913).
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. Apollinaire was strongly influenced by Delaunay’s theories of color and often quoted from them to explain Orphism. Delaunay’s fixations with color as the expressive and structural means were sustained with his study of color.
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. Night Scene for example has vigorous activity with the use of lively brushstrokes in bright colors against a dark background. It doesn’t define solid object but the areas that surround them.
After the war, in 1921, they returned to Paris. Delaunay continued to work in a mostly abstract style. During the 1937 World Fair in Paris, Delaunay 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 in Montpellier at the age of 56. His body was reburied in 1952 in Gambais.