MoMA
Robert Delaunay. Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon. Paris 1913 (dated on painting 1912)
Robert Delaunay

Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon

Paris 1913 (dated on painting 1912)
On view
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
53" (134.5 cm) in diameter
Credit
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
Object number
1.1954

Delaunay was fascinated by how the interaction of colors produces sensations of depth and movement, without reference to the natural world. In Simultaneous Contrasts that movement is the rhythm of the cosmos, for the painting's circular frame is a sign for the universe, and its flux of reds and oranges, greens and blues, is attuned to the sun and the moon, the rotation of day and night. But the star and planet, refracted by light, go undescribed in any literal way. "The breaking up of form by light creates colored planes," Delaunay said. "These colored planes are the structure of the picture, and nature is no longer a subject for description but a pretext." Indeed, he had decided to abandon "images or reality that come to corrupt the order of color."

The poet Guillaume Apollinaire christened Delaunay's style "Orphism," after Orpheus, the musician of Greek legend whose eloquence on the lyre is a mythic archetype for the power of art. The musicality of Delaunay's work lay in color, which he studied closely. In fact, he derived the phrase "Simultaneous Contrasts" from the treatise On the Law of the Simultaneous Contrast of Colors, published in 1839 by Michel-Eugène Chevreul. Absorbing Chevreul's scientific analyses, Delaunay has here gone beyond them into a mystical belief in color, its fusion into unity symbolizing the possibility for harmony in the chaos of the modern world.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999
Provenance information
The artist, Paris. 1913 – 1940
Peggy Guggenheim (Art of This Century), New York. Purchased from Delaunay, fall 1940 – 1945
Stephen Lion, New York. Purchased from Art of This Century, 1945
Jacques Seligmann and Co., Inc., New York. By 1946 – 1954
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired from Jacques Seligmann, through the Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 1954

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource