• 1915
  • Canvas
  • Oil and Tempera
  • Inv. PE113

Robert Delaunay

Femme Nue Lisant

Femme Nue Lisant (Nude Woman Reading) belongs to a group of works on this theme by Robert Delaunay during the years he lived on the Iberian Peninsula, between 1914 and 1921. It is, in the words of the artist, the application to the human figure of his previous artistic discoveries: «transparent, iridescent, almost a rainbow, but robust and firm in its realist construction. Anti-descriptive, this nude reflects the entire [chromatic] spectrum of the country, beyond its pale flesh colouring.»* During his residence in Madrid, in the first semester of 1915, Robert had been particularly interested by Rubens’ use of colour, highlighting, among the various paintings in the Prado collection, the canvas Diana and Calisto (1638-40), of which he had a reproduction and which directly influenced him in the treatment of this nude. Inspired by the Amazon sitting in the foreground at the right hand side of Rubens’ painting, the exuberant feminine figure, barely dressed in stockings and black shoes, curved over the book, distanced from the cigarette that burns in the ashtray and from the mirror over the table, presents a brave image of nudity and, simultaneously, a revision of the iconographic treatment of the theme of reading.


In this canvas, Robert Delaunay does not limit himself to resuming a figurative style, with his reference to an old painting and classic theme, characteristics that, along with technical experimentations he shared with his wife, Sonia Delaunay, constitute an almost complete account of the development of his work during the years of World War I. These changes were brought about by the situation of isolation from the Der Sturm group, with whom he had actively collaborated during the pre-war period, and to which he tried to create alternatives in the Iberian Peninsula. He conceived, in this way, of a new axis of artistic production and programming, which he called “north-south” and which he tried to stimulate through the Expositions Mouvantes project, which involved his «Portuguese friends»** – Eduardo Viana, Almada Negreiros, José Pacheco and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso. However, these initiatives of his were never fully realised.


Beyond the potential thematic about-turn, the modernity of Femme Nue Lisant lies, above all, in the daring chromatic treatment of the image, with its pictorial language of orphic simultaneism, developed by Robert Delaunay on the basis of Chevreul’s investigations.*** The provocative «haptic sensuality»**** of the image could also be related to its performative aspect, a result of the strong illumination of the central motif on the canvas, which is put on centre stage. There can be no other painting that, like this one, mixes such voluptuous expression of Rubens’ legacy with the characteristic orphic discs of the Delaunays’ painting, and the folkloric motifs of the Minho region that seduced them so much in Portugal, evident in the peasant shawl covering the table.



Ana Vasconcelos

May 2010



* Robert Delaunay, «Notes historiques sur la peinture. Representation et métier», in Du cubisme à l’art abstrait, Paris, SEVPEN, 1957, p. 126

** See Paulo Ferreira, Correspondence de quatre artistes portugais avec Robert et Sonia Delaunay, Paris, P.U.F., 1972.

*** The law of the simultaneous contrast of colours was formulated by Eugène Chevreul in De la loi du contraste simultané des coleurs et de l’assortiment des objects coloriés, 1893.

**** Pascal Rousseau, «El arte nuevo nos sonrie. Robert et Sonia Delaunay en Iberia (1914-1921)», in Robert y Sonia Delaunay, Barcelona, Museu Picasso, 2000, p. 47.

DateNovember 1978
Heimo Zobernig e a Colecção do Centro de Arte Moderna da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian/ Heimo Zobernig and the Collection of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Modern Art Centre; Heimo Zobernig and the Tate Colllection/ Heimo Zobernig e a Colecção da Tate
Lisbon/ St. Ives, CAM-FCG / Tate St. Ives, 2009
Exhibition catalogue
Hommage à Robert et Sonia Delaunay
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Villle de Paris
24 April 1985 t 7 July 1985
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Mostra di Robert e Sonia Delaunay
Galleria Civica D'Arte Moderna, Turin
March to April 1960
Inauguração do CAM
20 July 1983
Centro de Arte Moderna/ FCG, Lisbon
Robert Delaunay
Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany
25 September 1976 to 14 November 1976
Celebración del Arte. Médio siglo de la Fundación Juan March
Fundación Juan March
7 October 2005 to 22 January 2006
Fundación Juan March, Madrid
Heimo Zobernig e a Colecção do Centro de Arte Moderna da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Curator: Jürgen Bock
11 February to 31 August 2009
CAM, FCG, Lisbon
Exposição Permanente do CAM
Curator: Jorge Molder
18 July 2008 to 4 January 2009
CAM / FCG, Lisbon
Updated on 12 january 2022

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