Robert Delaunay- Female Nude Reading
Size: 54 in. x 42 3/8 in. (137.2 cm x 107.6 cm)
Museum purchase through the Earle W. Grant Acquisition Fund, 1979:20
Single-minded in his pursuit of a pure pictorial language based on bold chromatic contrasts, Delaunay turned away from the muted Cubist palette of Picasso and Braque and looked instead to the lessons of Matisse and his followers, who had pioneered an expressive and deliberately dissonant use of color. The critic Guillaume Apollinaire used the term "Orphic," a poetic label meant to evoke the work's "cosmic" character, to describe Delaunay's language of luminous, abstract forms.
Much of Delaunay's work is more purely abstract, but this painting belongs to the series of female nudes -- exceptional among Delaunay's oeuvre -- executed in Spain and Portugal, where the artist and his wife had withdrawn during World War I.
The overlapping constellation of circular motifs at the edges of the composition are more typical of his work and recalls the so-called color wheels of Michel Eugène Chevreul, the nineteenth century chemist whose theory of simultaneous color contrasts had also been a touchstone of Impressionism.