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Oct. 14 Art Minute: Robert Delaunay, The City of Paris

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum
Robert Delauney (French, 1885-1941) The City of Paris. Oil on canvas, about 1911. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1955.38

In The City of Paris, Delaunay draws back the curtain to display his vibrant and unforgettable image of Paris. At center stage are the mythical Three Graces adapted from a Roman fresco from Pompeii. Linking the achievements of the past with the vibrating pulse of modern life, the Graces extend their arms through antiquity and present to us the Parisian cityscape dominated by the modern landmark of the Eiffel Tower.

Interested in the simultaneous viewpoints of Cubism, Delaunay nevertheless rejected Analytic Cubism’s favoring of line over color. He would soon reject representation entirely for pure abstraction that elevated the role of color—“Color alone is form and subject,” he wrote. Delaunay infuses City of Paris with bursts of shimmering color and light and fragmented form, giving the effect of looking at the whole of the city at once through the wonder of a child’s kaleidoscope

This work is currently on view in Gallery 03.