The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Early Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde

What is Orphism?

Orphism, sometimes called Orphic Cubism, is a movement that developed within Cubism and is characterized by abstractions and rhythmic color arranged to emphasize the joyous power of creation and the relationship between visual art and music. The name “Orphism” was coined by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) and the name refers to the mythological figure, Orpheus, a poet whose beautiful lyrics and music could seduce wild animals. One of the major artists associated with Orphism was Robert Delaunay (1885–1941), who passed through a Cubist phase and experimented with color theory and concepts of space, much like his fellow Cubists, Braque and Picasso. Delaunay created color abstractions such as Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon (1913) that relied on color interactions to create a sense of depth and movement. Delaunay’s wife Sonia also created Orphic works, including paintings, collages, and clothing designs. By 1914, Apollinaire and Delauney could no long agree on the main tenets of Orphism and the movement ended.


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