A painting by Sonia Delaunay to be auctioned on 18 June 2024

“Rythme Couleur”
Sonia Delaunay – 1973


Sonia Delaunay‘s oil on canvas Rythme Couleur was painted in Paris in 1973. It is an exceptional testimony to the artist’s work and her application of the theory of Simultanism (or Orphism, according to Apollinaire) to painting. Although Sonia Delaunay was often described by critics as a ‘decorator’, this painting serves as a reminder of the importance of the research of a great painter above all else.

Blue, white, red, black, green and grey: six colours, including those of the French flag.

1973: six decades after the Delaunays’ first research into Simultanism in painting.

In the background, a stylised propeller: modernity, movement, rotation.


Rythme Couleur, painted in 1973 in Paris by Sonia Delaunay, confirms a lifetime of artistic research. The colours and shapes arranged by the artist on the canvas are an expression of the theory of Simultanism, developed by Robert Delaunay in 1912-1913. This theory was espoused by the couple Sonia and Robert, who initiated a fruitful artistic dialogue in the early years of their life together. According to them, light dissolves form and creates the sensation of colour in movement. This “synchromatic” movement can be achieved on canvas by contrasting colours and shapes.

In his theoretical writings, Robert Delaunay acknowledges his debt to Michel-Eugène Chevreul‘s De la loi du contraste simultané des couleurs, published in 1839, in which the author precisely dissects the mechanisms by which the eye reacts to colour stimuli. Colour is at the centre of their pictorial research, around which poetry, total art and the desire for art for all revolve. A new path was opened up in the field of art, a movement that Apollinaire called Orphism, and which he defined as a new language rivalling that of the poets of whom Orpheus was the tutelary figure.

Apollinaire wrote in L’Intransigeant in 1913: “Much has already been said about Orphism. This is the first time that this trend has manifested itself. It brings together painters of very different characters who have all, in their research, arrived at a more interior, more popular, more poetic vision of the universe and of life. This trend is not a sudden invention; it is the slow, logical evolution of Impressionism, Divisionism, the Fauvist school and Cubism.”

Simultanism or Orphism is part of Braque and Picasso’s research into Cubism, which began in 1907. Avant-garde artists such as Sonia Delaunay moved away from mimesis by breaking down figures. Figures and objects gradually disappeared from the canvas to reveal motifs, colours and lines. They all shared a desire for a rupture in the art of composition, but also to break down the boundaries between artistic disciplines. The language of music was gradually introduced into the visual arts, notably through Kandinsky‘s lyrical abstraction. The paintings would be called Composition, Fugue, Rhythm and Colour.



” Everything is feeling, everything is true. Colour gives me joy.”

Sonia Delaunay, interview with Jacques Damase
extract from Patrick Raynaud’s documentary “Prises de vue pour une monographie”, 1972




The six colours

The six colours used by Sonia Delaunay in Rythme Couleur resonate with each other, altering and complementing one another. Blue, for example, complements red. The fields of force that arise between the colours move the shapes and create an optical effect. Rhythm is then introduced through the repetition of shapes and colours. It was from the 1930s onwards that rhythm became central to Sonia Delaunay’s work. She credits light, music and dance as her main sources of inspiration, telling Roger Bordier that “the undulating, contained rhythm of the tango encourages the colours to move”.


Half circles

The repetition of semicircles in Rythme Couleur is intended to represent the rotational movement of propellers, which at the beginning of the 20th century were seen as a symbol of modernity. This stylised motif is a recurring theme in Sonia Delaunay’s work, and recalls one of the founding episodes of artistic modernity: Marcel Duchamp‘s visit to the Salon de l’Aéronautique in 1912. The artist, stunned by aircraft propellers, prophesied the death of painting to his colleagues. Propellers did not have the same effect on Sonia Delaunay, who enjoyed depicting them in numerous works, in a hymn to technological advances and the conquest of the sky.

“Rhythme Couleur”

Sonia Delaunay’s use of the title Rythme Couleur for her paintings is so common that it should be highlighted. The artist repeats it like a mantra, like a constantly renewed belief in the theory to which she has dedicated part of her life and which she has never ceased to apply to her work.

The year 1973

1973 was a landmark year in Sonia Delaunay’s career, when she was awarded the Grand Prix des arts de la ville de Paris. Her husband Robert Delaunay had died in 1941. For 10 years after his death, she worked to gain recognition for her husband’s work. Painting never left her life, but it was from the 1950s onwards that she rededicated herself to it with renewed zeal. The Galerie Denise René showcased her in a number of exhibitions and put her work into perspective with that of optico-kinetic artists, pioneered by the Delaunays.



« As in written poetry, it’s not the words that count, it’s the mystery of the creation that gives an emotion or not… in the same way with colours, it’s the poetry, the mystery of an inner life that radiates and is communicated. From there you can freely create a new language. »

SD, 1968, quoted in Sonia Delaunay,
Musée de Grenoble, 15 January-15 March 1974, p.10.



Sonia DELAUNAY (1885-1979)
Rythme couleur, 1973
Oil on canvas
Signed lower right
65 x 54 cm






“Impressionist & Modern Art”
Tuesday 18 June 2024

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37 rue des Mathurins
75008 Paris


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