Robert Delaunay  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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.

While he was a child, Delaunay's parents divorced, and he was raised by his uncle, in La Ronchère (near Bourges). He took up painting at an early age and, by 1903, he was producing mature imagery in a confident, impressionistic style.

In 1908, after a term in the military working as a regimental librarian, he met Sonia Terk, whom he later married, though at the time she was married to a German art dealer whom she would soon divorce. In 1909, Delaunay began to paint a series of studies of the city of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. The following year, he married Terk, and the couple settled in a studio apartment in Paris, where they later had a son. 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.

The outbreak of World War I found Delaunay and his wife vacationing in Spain, and they settled with friends in Portugal for the duration of the conflict. During this period, the couple took on several jobs designing costumes for the Madrid Opera, and Sonia Delaunay started a fashion design business. 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 October 25, 1941 in Montpellier.

The Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art (Japan), the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum (Spain),National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Guggenheim Museum (New York City), the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Kunstmuseum Basel (Switzerland), the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia), the National Galleries of Scotland, the New Art Gallery (Walsall, England), Palazzo Cavour (Turin, Italy), Palazzo Ruspoli (Rome), the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are among the public collections holding works by Robert Delaunay.

Jazz expert Charles Delaunay is his and Sonia's son.


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