Robert Delaunay (1885 Paris - 1941 Montpellier)
Oil on canvas ; signed and dated "Robert Delaunay 04" at the lower center ; 64.3 x 80.8 cm
Paris, Sonia Delaunay collection ; European private collection ; New York, Sotheby's, 6th May 2010.
Salon des Indépendants (Paris, Grandes Serres de la Ville, 1905) ; Le début du siècle aux Indépendants (Paris, Grand Palais, 1967) ; Sonia et Robert Delaunay (Tokyo, National Modern Art Museum) ; De Cézanne à Matisse (Paris, Salon d'Automne, Grand Palais, 1983) ; Robert Delaunay (Cologne, Gmurzynska gallery, 1983).
Guy Habasque, Du Cubisme à l'Art Abstrait, Paris, S.E.V.P.E.N., 1957 (no. 3).
In 1904, Robert Delaunay was only nineteen years old, but (just look at his signature) his vocation as a painter was asserted and claimed. Very quickly, he would become one of the pioneers of modern art.
Two years before, this son of parisian bourgeoisie left his high school where he was secretly drawing his first pastels to join the workshops of the theatre decorator Eugène Ronsin. There he was introduced not only to decorative painting but also to scenic perspective and light effects.
In 1903, he painted Les Bords de la Yèvre (The Banks of the Yèvre - Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne), with a similar format and composition to our painting, but still in a rather wise post-impressionist vein. On the contrary, our painting, exhibited in 1905 at the Salon des Indépendants (the same exhibition where Matisse presented Luxe, calme et volupté), explores the simultaneous contrast of colors in a range dominated by blue, yellow and green, which will be found in his works of the maturity.
Jean Cassou describes Delaunay's career as follows : "His first love was for divisionism, he had read Chevreul. (...) He was not looking for a rational principle, but a cosmic element. This element was the light. (...) And this action of the light upsets the reality, breaks it, moves it. The cubists being geometers and analysts, it was their intellect that cut things out. For the instinctive Delaunay, it was the light, and the light itself is cut into colors. (catalog of the exhibition Robert Delaunay, National Museum of Modern Art, 1957).
In this work, light effectively "disrupts reality". Added to this is a remarkable effect of perspective plunging down towards the washhouse. The result for the viewer is a sensation of vertigo, as if the scene were spinning on its axis, the rock in the foreground, under a stroboscopic lighting.