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)

Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
53" (134.5 cm) in diameter
Credit
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
Object number
1.1954
Department
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 12 other works online.
Robert Delaunay has 15 works online.
There are 2,242 paintings online.

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

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
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

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Licensing of MoMA images and videos is handled by Art Resource (North America) and Scala Archives (all other geographic locations). All requests should be addressed directly to those agencies, which supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum.

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

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.