Dissertation Abstract

PERSONAL SPACE: 

SIMULTANEITIES IN THE 1913 WORK OF ROBERT DELAUNAY, FERNAND LÉGER AND SONIA DELAUNAY-TERK


TARA WARD

Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2013

Major Professor:  Jodi Cranston, Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture


ABSTRACT

 

“Personal Space” examines the influence of M. E. Chevreul’s On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors (1839) on the 1913 work of Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, and Sonia Delaunay-Terk in order to show that each artist used color theory to develop not only an artistic style, but also a broader métier.  That French term encompasses an individual’s profession and technical skills as well as the identities, worldviews, and geographic locales associated with it.  Michel Foucault’s notion of historical problematization provides the framework for understanding how simultaneous contrast could define their art, personae, philosophical stances, and relationship to the urban fabric of Paris.  Thus, this dissertation argues that all of these artists used the concept of spatial simultaneous contrast to construct a place for themselves in their intellectual, physical, and social environment.  This is in contrast to the more temporal simultaneity of their Cubist and Futurist peers.

The text begins with an overview of the problematization of space and time in 1913 Paris and demonstrates how debates about simultaneity could be seen in both works of art and on the streets of the city.  The first chapter also shows that Montparnasse houses numerous competing spatial structures in order to explain why these three artists selected it as the home of their métiers.    Chapter two argues that Robert Delaunay understood this law of color as a representation of the order of the world by placing his Simultaneous Contrast: Sun and Moon alongside the artist’s interest in Baruch Spinoza and his frequent visits to the area surrounding the Paris Observatory, an institution central to the institution of Standard Time.    In chapter three, an investigation of Fernand Léger’s studios is used to explain how his Contrasts of Forms series expresses the artist’s identification with heterotopian aspects of the modern built environment.  Chapter four contends that Sonia Delaunay-Terk’s Simultaneous Dress is the embodiment of her use of simultaneous contrast to manage the competing claims made on her identity, especially those found in the Bal Bullier dancehall.  

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