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The Art Movements’ Exercise – Orphism

April 5, 2013

The decision has been made! I need to practice my painting and drawing skills and at the moment it even doesn’t matter what medium is chosen – lets call this an experiment. (By the way, you’re welcome to join in.)

To make this process more interesting I’ve once again turned it into an opportunity to learn something new. I’ll be concentrating on Art Movements that aren’t so well known and the short theory part will be followed by my artwork, created following some main guidelines for each of the movements we are going to discuss. I’ll start with Orphism and for this we will have to remember some colour theories…

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Orphism or Orphic Cubism, a term coined by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire in 1912, was an offshoot of Cubism that focused on pure abstraction and bright colors, influenced by Fauvism, theoretical writings of Paul Signac, Charles Henry and the dye chemist Eugène Chevreul.

This movement, perceived as key in the transition from Cubism to Abstract art, was pioneered by František Kupka, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay, who relaunched the use of colour during the monochromatic phase of Cubism. The meaning of the term Orphism was elusive when it first appeared and remains to some extent vague.

R.Delaunay - Simultaneous Windows (2nd Motif, 1st Part), 1912 (image taken from:

R.Delaunay – Simultaneous Windows (2nd Motif, 1st Part), 1912 (image taken from:

In Les Peintres cubistes Apollinaire described Orphism as “the art of painting new totalities with elements that the artist does not take from visual reality, but creates entirely by himself. […] An Orphic painter’s works should convey an untroubled aesthetic pleasure, but at the same time a meaningful structure and sublime significance.”

A Few Facts:

– Orphic painters cited analogies with music in their titles; for example, Kupka’s Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colors (1912) and Francis Picabia’s abstract composition Dance at the Source (1912) and Wassily Kandinsky’s Über das Geistige in der Kunst (1912).

F.Kupka - Replica of Fugue in Two Colors: Amorpha, 1912 (image taken from:

F.Kupka – Replica of Fugue in Two Colors: Amorpha, 1912 (image taken from:

– Chemist Eugène Chevreul was most famous for discovering margarine. He delved in dye chemistry as well as the aesthetics of simultaneous contrast of colors. He had three main ideas to his color theories: “when complementary colors are juxtaposed, each appears to be more intense than when seen in isolation” and “if there is a perceptible difference in dark-light value between the two colors, then the darker will appear to be even darker” as well as that “all colors present in the field of vision at the same time mutually modify one another in specific ways”. Chevreul influenced many artists because he understood scientifically what many artists expressed instinctively.

– The Orphists were rooted in Cubism but moved toward a pure lyrical abstraction, seeing painting as the bringing together of a sensation of pure colors. More concerned with the expression and significance of sensation, this movement began with recognizable subjects but was rapidly absorbed by increasingly abstract structures. Orphism aimed to dispense with recognizable subject matter and to rely on form and color to communicate meaning. The movement also aimed to express the ideals of Simultanism: the existence of an infinitude of interrelated states of being.

S.Delaunay - Market at Minho, 1915 (image taken from:

S.Delaunay – Market at Minho, 1915 (image taken from:

– The Symbolists had used the word orphique in relation to the Greek myth of Orpheus, who they perceived as the ideal artist. Apollinaire had written a collection of quatrains in 1907 entitled Bestiaire ou cortège d’Orphée (Paris, 1911), within which Orpheus was symbolized as a poet and artist. For both Apollinaire and the Symbolists who preceded him, Orpheus was associated with mysticism, something that would inspire artistic endeavors. The Orphic metaphor thus represented the artist’s power to create new structures and color harmonies, in an innovative creative process that combined to form a sensuous experience.

– Orphism as a movement was short-lived, essentially coming to an end before World War I. In spite of the use of the term the works categorized as Orphism were so different that they defy attempts to place them in a single category. The term Orphism most obviously embraced paintings by František Kupka, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay, if limited to implications imposed by color, light, and the expression of non-representational compositions.

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Information for this post was found on Wikipedia.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 5, 2013 7:11 pm

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you visit again, soon. Look forward to seeing what new things you create.

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