Robert Delaunay: 'Homagist'

Hommage à Blériot painting on easel

 

Robert Delaunay appears to have been apt to acknowledge the worth of others in his art.

 

Born in 1885, the French painter was raised from the age of 4 by a maternal aunt and her husband in some aristocratic privilege, following the estrangement of his parents through divorce and the potential that his eccentric mother, the erroneously self titled ‘Countess’ Berthe Félicie de Rose, was simply too bohemian to offer him sufficient parental stability.

 

The timelines of artistic movements, especially in the early part of the 20th century, can be particularly messy and the preference, probably by academics and critics, to classify the output of visual creatives, especially painters, can present issue for those whose work places them at the cusp of such distinctions. So it appears to go for Delaunay.

 

Although, with his wife Sonia, Delaunay is said to have instigated the poetically named movement known as ‘Orphism’, the distinction between works ascribed under this banner and that of the more significant Cubism seems to be one of simply employing less dismal colours. The movement is in fact often referred to as ‘Orphic Cubism’. The use of bright colour in itself also being an inspiration from another earlier and more significant movement: Fauvism.

 

Hommage à Blériot Silk Tie

Delaunay Blériot Silk Tie

 

Delaunay takes many cues from earlier and more significant artistic nodes, in something of a ‘multi-homage’ to many influences, although perhaps unsurprisingly almost all bar Picasso appear to have been French.

 

Early works by the artist show a tendency to the brush work of pointillism, the colour use of Neo-Impressionism and the perspectives of Impressionism, recalling works by Manet and Degas. His themes err away however, from those of nature, and towards the backdrop to his life as an affluent Parisian, the city, once again to follow in the footsteps of the fauvists.

 

Inspiration for Delaunay also seems to have been mutual between he and the more significant Expressionists that influenced the abstract in his work who now enjoy much greater renown today, names like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Marc Chagall for instance.

 

Prior to the more solidly abstracted phase of works, Delaunay continued to paint with figurative reference. In one series he depicts the interior of the Catholic church of Saint Severin in Paris, from the same viewpoint multiple times to study changes in light, once again in homage to similar depictions of the exterior of Rouen cathedral by Monet.

 

Hommage à Blériot Cuff Links

Delaunay Blériot Cuff Links

 

The palette nominated is however unlike the pastel shades of the great impressionist offering instead muted tones that result in images reminiscent of Braque & Picasso and yet another nod to early Cubism.

 

As his output moved towards the bold geometric forms of his latter years, Delaunay transitioned through a phase that retained recognizable aspects of French culture and progress of the time, specifically in the field of engineering. A central motif to many of his most significant works was the Eiffel Tower.

 

Completed 10 years prior to his first depiction of it, unlike its current shades of brown, the tower on the Champ de Mars, was originally red in colour and is referred to in several of Delaunay’s paintings as ‘La Tour Rouge’, or ‘The Red Tower’.

 

In stark contrast to the objections of artists, writers, painters and sculptors at the time of its construction who considered the erection to be “…like a gigantic black smokestack crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe…’, Delaunay restricted his palette to use only those of the tricolor in his 1911-12 depiction in a clear celebration of this feat of world renowned French engineering prowess and ongoing homage to the man whose name the tower bears.

 

Delaunay Blériot Silk Chiffon Scarf

 

Delaunay produced a work in 1914 to contain not only most of these previous elements but to actually be entitled as an homage to a pioneer of engineering, the aviator Louis Bleriot. Although the original intended title, and the work as a whole was somewhat less digestible at the time as the following details;

 

In a sniffy article from the New York Sun dated March 15th 1914, by an unnamed correspondent reporting from the Salon Independants in Paris an account is offered on the defense of the latest wave of progressive artists by the poet Andre Salmon, entitling Delaunay and others as ‘so called artists’, and ‘outcasts’.

 

It goes on to decry critics themselves for not holding these pretenders to greater account, that critics ‘admit every effort’ and are guilty of ‘encouraging the most absurd’ by their failures to admonish them.

 

The New York Sun, March 15th 1914

The New York Sun, March 15th 1914

 

The writer continues;

 

“Everything at the Independent Salon is not of the first rank, but the foolish abortions that may be found there were received because liberal regulations leave a door open to them as to others”…

 

“No one need search the rooms of the exhibition to find a characteristic work. Right at the entrance may be works of the “simultanists”, Robert Delaunay and his wife Sonia Delaunay… in this manner the salon at once marks its significance and one knows one is not at the Louvre”….

 

“Delaunay’s tribute to Bleriot (of which the painter begged that the exact title should be “Solar discs, Form,” “Simultaneity,” to the great constructor, Bleriot”), is an effort to suggest the idea of movement.

 

 Hommage à Blériot Tote Bag

 

Delaunay Blériot Posh Shopper

 

And it has moved! Onto a range of our silk scarves, silk ties, cuff links and even our new posh shopping bag!

 

Mon Dieu! Vive La France!

 

 

 


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