Delaunay Work Stuns Fair

LONDON -- A monumental Art Deco masterpiece by the Orphist painter Robert Delaunay, will be offered for sale by the Simon Dickinson Gallery at Masterpiece London Art Fair.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network will attend Masterpiece London, the leading international cross-collecting Fair for art, antiques and design, which returns to The Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Running from 25 June - 1 July, the Fair has become a must-attend event at the heart of the capital’s busy summer art and auction season.

La Ville de Paris, la Femme et la Tour Eiffel, is considered the highlight to of the show.

It possesses a fascinating provenance, as it remained in Sonia Delaunay’s own collection until her death in 1979. A talented artist and designer in her own right -- and currently the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern -- Sonia collaborated with Robert on the set and costume designs for the 1926 French movie Le P’tit Parigot (“The Small Parisian One”).

La Ville de Paris, la Femme et la Tour Eiffel can be seen in the background in contemporary photographs of that set.

Delaunay painted La Ville de Paris, la Femme et la Tour Eiffel in 1925 for the seminal Paris Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs, the title of which led to the widespread adoption of the term “Art Deco”.

This influential visual arts style combined traditional arts and crafts motifs with the imagery and materials of the Machine Age. A postcard issued to promote the Exposition shows Delaunay’s painting hanging on the wall.

'Our Picture'

Delaunay first turned his attention to the Tour Eiffel series between 1909 and 1914, subsequently returning to the theme in the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the earliest studies of the Eiffel Tower was painted in 1909 as an engagement present for Delaunay’s wife, born Sonia Terk (1885 – 1979), and she later recalled: “It was ‘our’ picture.The Eiffel Tower and the Universe were one and the same to [Robert].”

By replacing the pastoral landscape idylls of the Impressionists with a prophetic vision of modernity, Delaunay aimed to emphasize French achievement, innovation, progress and patriotism through the iconography of the Eiffel Tower.

Although its construction in the late 19th century provoked a tremendous controversy, the Tower soon became the quintessential icon of urban existence, a monumental tribute to human aspiration and architectural achievement.

In addition to the Tower itself, Delaunay has included in his composition a number of identifiable Parisian landmarks and bridges, and has commemorated Charles Godefroy’s historic 1919 victory flight through the Arc de Triomphe.

The low vantage point and dramatic foreshortening underscore the immense scale of the painting itself -- at four and a half meters high, it is the largest and most impressive work in the Tour Eiffel series -- and the surface is defined by brilliant and contrasting hues.

Masterpiece of Orphism

Orphism, pioneered by Delaunay and Sonia, is considered an offshoot of Cubism and relies on the sensation of pure color as a means of both expression and structure.

In 1912 the poet Guillaume Apollinaire applied the French term Orphisme to the visionary and lyrical paintings of Robert Delaunay, relating them to Orpheus, a poet and musician in Greek mythology.

It also applies to the paintings of Sonia Terk Delaunay and is often mentioned in connection with František Kupka and a group of then-contemporary American and Canadian artists, called Synchromists, who painted according to a system of “color harmonies” that equated hues to musical pitches.

The term Orphic Cubism is sometimes used instead of Orphism because of Robert Delaunay’s roots in a Cubist style.

Departing from the limited palette of Georges Braque’s and Pablo Picasso’s initial phase of Cubism, the Delaunays’ paintings are full of brightly colored circular forms. The color combinations are based on the “law of simultaneous contrast of colors,” developed in the 19th century by French chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul, whose theories had already influenced painters such as Eugène Delacroix and Georges Seurat.

Ninety years after Delaunay’s painting was first presented in 1925 in Paris, The New York/London art dealer, Dickinson, is dedicating a room on its stand at Masterpiece to La Ville de Paris, la Femme et la Tour Eiffel, the Delaunays, and the legacy of Cubism.

Due to this painting’s iconic subject matter, impressive scale, and historically important provenance, La Ville de Paris, la Femme et la Tour Eiffel is a highly significant example of Delaunay’s work during the height of his career, and can truly be considered a masterpiece.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers insight into Delaunay's recurrent theme of the Eiffel Tour, an enduring symbol of modernity.