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Robert Delaunay was a Parisian artist known for his dynamic paintings with bright and bold colors. These were characteristics of the artistic movement Orphism, which he founded along with his wife, Sonia Delaunay, and friend Frantisek Kupka. This Modern art movement was influenced by Fauvism and Cubism. In fact, many art historians see Delaunay's production as a transitional point for Cubism to full abstraction.
Delaunay was born in April 1885 to a noble family, as his mother, Berthe Félice de Rose, was Countess. As a young child, he was sent off to live his aunt after his parents' separation. As soon as he finished secondary school, young Delaunay settled in Belleville, Paris, to become an apprentice in a studio for theater scenery, where he stayed for about a year.
In 1903, at the early age of nineteen, Delaunay began dedicating his career entirely to painting, and a year later, he was already exhibiting his work. The painter started showing six artworks at the Salon des Indépendants, an exhibit formed by Neo-Impressionists. He traveled to Pont-Aven, a commune in northwestern France, where he was in contact with the artists of the Pont-Aven School.
By 1906, Delaunay met and befriended the Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau. He became especially close to Jean Metzinger, who would exhibit beside him. Both painters worked in a Pointillistic style, often with broad strokes of color, creating a mosaic feel to the painting, like seen in Paysage au Disque. They were part of the Neo-Impressionist movement, which had its peak around 1907, the same year of the aforementioned painting.
During this period, Metzinger and Delaunay commonly worked together. They eventually adapted Pointillism to the Cubist path. Their works had a significant influence on other artists and groups, like the Futurists, and even Piet Mondrian created artworks similar to the new take on Pointillism.
Around the year 1912, Delaunay's works took a different direction when he began abstracting more of his paintings and representing his themes more dynamically and boldly. He started creating paintings along with his wife Sonia, who was also an artist, classified today as part of Orphism, also known as Orphic Cubism. His paintings changed from Pointillistic areas of color to dissected abstract colors, like seen in Windows on the City and Premier Disque.
Cubism was at its height during the same time Delaunay created these colorful Orphic paintings, but the Cubists, in contrast to his production, were not fond of working with color. He was even accused by his peers of wanting to bring back Impressionism, because of his bold use of color. The difference in aesthetics leads Delaunay to depart from the Cubists. He traveled to Berlin with the art critic Guillaume Apollinaire and was able to meet August Macke and Max Ernst.
In 1914, the artistic couple decided to stay in Spain as the First World War began, eventually settling in Madrid. A year later, Sonia and Robert relocated to Portugal, where they established partnerships with other painters, like Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, and their housemates Eduardo Viana and Samuel Halpert.
Delaunay and his wife returned to Paris after the war ended in 1921. During this period, they encountered Dadaist and Surrealist artists, like Andre Breton, which influenced Robert profoundly. He continued producing both abstract and figurative artworks, delving into briefly into Surrealism.
Robert Delaunay passed away in October 1941, after battling cancer and fleeing from German attacks of the Second World War.