Resisting Abstraction: Robert Delaunay and Vision in the Face of Modernism
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With Resisting Abstraction, the first English-language study of Delaunay in more than thirty years, Gordon Hughes mounts a powerful argument that Delaunay was not only one of the earliest artists to tackle abstraction, but the only artist to present his abstraction as a response to new scientific theories of vision. The colorful, optically driven canvases that Delaunay produced, Hughes shows, set him apart from the more ethereal abstraction of contemporaries like Kandinsky, Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, and František Kupka. In fact, Delaunay emphatically rejected the spiritual motivations and idealism of that group, rooting his work instead in contemporary science and optics. Thus he set the stage not only for the modern artists who would follow, but for the critics who celebrated them as well.
regulations concerning the approval and registration of all posters, made it illegal to tear down public [ 80 ] chapter Two advertising, and gave new rights to building owners and municipalities, in terms of both setting prices and removing unwanted posters. This new freedom to advertise resulted in a massive boom in street publicity, transforming certain parts of Paris into a veritable patchwork of colored affiches (figures 2.24–2.25). As Ernest Maidron complains in his 1896 Les affiches
Caillaux was finally allowed entry into Calmette’s office. As recounted in Harvard University Archives– court documents, the exchange that followed was brief: “Do you know why I have HUPSF Psychological Labora- come?” she asked. “Not at all, Madame,” replied Calmette. At which point she tories. pulled a Browning automatic pistol from her fur hand muff and shot Calmette four times in the chest. He died six hours later. In fact, everyone, including Calmette, knew why Henriette Caillaux had
then, if he began to lose his bearings in the face of such overwhelming incomprehension? With his next major series after the Disk, his 1914 Homage à Blériot paintings (figure 4.1), Delaunay opts for a much safer path, effectively putting an end to his engagement with pure painting and all that Â�entailed: no more play between visual and pictorial structure; no more virtual movement; no more struggle to unite the “sun” and the “moon.” Interspersed with images of airplanes, figures, and the Eiffel
Habberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 66). 57. Transcript, Le temps, July 21, 1914; quoted in Berenson, Trial of Madame Caillaux, 42. 58. Delaunay, “Fragments Drawn Up for the Discussion Group” in New Art of Color, 144; “Frarments rédigés pour les entretiens,” in Du cubisme à l’art abstrait, 217. 59. Anonymous, “Nos grands barbouilleurs,” Fantasio, November 1, 1913. 60. Sonia Delaunay, Nous irons jusqu’au soleil (Paris: Laffont, 1978), 63–64. 61. The Berlin Herbstsalon (roughly equivalent to
Of these, only Orphic cubism would not lapse into almost immediate obscurity. Indeed, “Orphic cubism” quickly transformed into “Orphism,” the -ism proclaiming its status as a full and independent movement. In his talk, woven a year later into the fabric of The Cubist Painters, Apollinaire argued that Orphic cubism, roughly characterized by a tendency toward abstraction, represents a “pure art” consisting of “elements not borrowed from visual reality.” Orphic cubism, Apollinaire argued with