(b Paris, 12 Apr. 1885; d Montpellier, 25 Oct. 1941). French painter. Initially he painted in an Impressionist style, but in 1906 he began the experiments with the abstract qualities of colour that were to provide the central theme of his career. His starting point was Neo-Impressionism, but instead of using Seurat's pointillist technique he investigated the interaction of large areas of contrasting colours.
He was particularly interested in the interconnections between colour and movement. By 1910 he was making an individual contribution to Cubism, combining its fragmented forms with vibrant colours (rather than the muted browns and greys typical of Braque and Picasso at this time) and depicting the dynamism of city life rather than the standard Cubist repertoire of still life and so on. In particular he did a memorable series of paintings of the Eiffel Tower, in which the huge monument seems to be unleashing powerful bursts of energy (Eiffel Tower, 1910, Guggenheim Mus., New York). By about 1912 he was painting completely abstract pictures (perhaps the first French artist to do so). Apollinaire gave the name Orphism to Delaunay's work of this period because of its analogies with the abstract art of music. In 1913 he had a one-man show at the Sturm Gallery in Berlin, and his work was a major influence on German Expressionists such as Klee, Macke, and Marc; it also powerfully affected the Futurists in Italy and the American Synchromists. Delaunay was notoriously competitive and fully aware of the importance of his work: at about this time he drew up a list of all the artists, no matter how minor, he thought he had influenced. However, the period when he was a key figure in modern art was fairly brief: he lived in Spain and Portugal during the First World War and after his return to Paris in 1920 his work lost its inspirational quality and became rather repetitive. His home became a meeting place for Dada artists, but Delaunay's own paintings continued to be related to colour theories. His last major works were two large murals (destroyed) for pavilions in the Paris World Fair of 1937.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)