by Scholes, Robert
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Robert Delaunay (1885 - 1941)
Robert Delaunay was born on April 12, 1885, in Paris to a family of rooted aristocratic lineage. The Delaunays were said to be a cultured, albeit spoiled, family. His father Georges was a modern businessman who daringly invested in electricity at the time of Robert's birth, while his mother Countess Berthe-Félice de Rose was more selfishly concerned with the arts, travel, and Parisian social life. His parents divorced in 1889 and severed all ties with one another. Consequently, Delaunay hardly knew his father and saw his mother only during periodic home-stays in between her travels. The future artist ended up staying mostly in the care of his mother's older sister and brother-in-law at their large country estate near Bourges.
Delaunay was a lazy student and was expelled from several schools in both Paris and Bourges In 1902, he became apprentice to the theater scene painter Ronsin in the town of Belleville. This was Delaunay's only formal artistic training. He stayed in Belleville for two years. In 1904, Delaunay's artwork was exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. The exhibition featured six major works. It was obvious in the subject matter and brushstrokes of these early paintings that the Impressionistic movement had greatly influenced Delaunay's style. However, over the next few years, his style would change immensely, becoming more futuristic with time. In 1909, he began his Saint-Séverin series, an in-depth study of formal techniques. Several of these sketches were painted from direct observation and captured the light as it fell through the windows and into the cathedral. His more Cubist Eiffel Tower series would soon follow.In 1910, Delaunay married Sonia Terk, a fellow artist. They spent the WWI years in Portugal but moved back to Paris after the war. The gallery Der Strum in Berlin presented shows of both Robert's and Sonia's artwork during this period.
In 1938 Robert became extremely ill, and on October 25, 1941, he died of cancer in Montpellier. His legacy, however, lived on in his wife. Sonia Delaunay (pictured with Robert above) gained much respect as an artist herself and also ensured that Robert Delaunay's artistic legacy would be recognized forever. In 1979, a monumental retrospective of both artists' work was held in Japan. From then on, major important retrospectives of Delaunay's work have been housed in museums all over the world.