Robert Delaunay

Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif)


In Tate Modern

Robert Delaunay 1885–1941
Original title
Fenêtres ouvertes simultanément (1ère partie 3ème motif)
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 457 × 375 mm
frame: 651 × 565 × 67 mm
Purchased 1967

Display caption


The Eiffel Tower can just be made out among the planes (flat areas) of colour here. Delaunay included the structure in many paintings. Its construction 25 years earlier caused controversy. Critics called it a ‘ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack’. When Delaunay made this work, it was still a symbol of modernity. He took his inspiration from a postcard showing the tower overlooking rooftops. The many bright colours evoke intense light and suggest fast-paced interactions experienced in the city.

Gallery label, April 2019

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Catalogue entry

Robert Delaunay 1885-1941

T00920 Fenêtres ouvertes simultanément (1ère Partie 3me Motif) (Windows open simultaneously (first Part, third Motif)) 1912

Inscribed 'Les Fenêtres 1912 | à Alex Tairoff amicalement | ce souvenir de Paris | 1923' b.r. and '1er partie 3me motif | "Fenêtres | ouvertes simultané | -ment" | Paris 1912 | delaunay' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 18 x 14 3/4 (46 x 37.5)
Purchased at Sotheby's (Special Grant-in-Aid) 1967
Prov: Alexander Tairov, Moscow (gift from the artist 1923); sold by his widow to Georgi Costakis, Moscow, c.1962; sold by him at Sotheby's, London, 26 April 1967, lot 51, repr. in colour
Exh: [?R. Delaunay, Ardengo Soffici, Julie Baum, Der Sturm, Berlin, January-February 1913 (6) as 'Fenêtres ouvertes simultanément 1ere Partie 3e Motif]
Repr: Burlington Magazine, CX, 1968, p.218; The Tate Gallery (London 1969), p.110 in colour; Michel Hoog, R. Delaunay (Naefels 1976), p.42 in colour

The picture postcard of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe which inspired the two series of paintings 'The City' and 'Window overlooking the City' painted from 1909 to the winter of 1911-12 also served as the basis for the 'Windows' which occupied Delaunay from April to December 1912. Sixteen examples are listed by Habasque in his catalogue of Delaunay's work of this period (Robert Delaunay, Du Cubisme à l'Art Abstrait, Paris 1957), Nos.90, 102, 104-12, 116-18, 351 and 743. A further one, 'oeuvres à retrouver' No.13, was finished later in 1914. In addition, three more have since been found: the picture now owned by the Tate; one in the collection of Mr and Mrs Arthur Altschul in New York; and one (unfinished) now in the Museum of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.

Of these twenty paintings and watercolours, eleven are similar to the present work in design:

H.90 Oil on canvas, including painted wooden surround, 46 x 40cm.
Kunsthalle, Hamburg (ex coll. Jean Cassou)

H.102 Oil on millboard, 54 x 54cm. Private collection, Paris

H.105 Oil on canvas, 92 x 86cm. Mr and Mrs Morton G. Neumann, Chicago

H.106 Oil on canvas, 55.2 x 46.3cm. Guggenheim Museum, New York

H.107 Encaustic on canvas, 78.7 x 68.7cm. Museum of Modern Art, New York (ex coll. Sidney Janis)

H.108 Gouache on card, 45.5 x 37cm. Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture, Grenoble

H.110 Oil on canvas, 79 x 64.5cm. Kunstmuseum, Winterthur

H.743 Oil on canvas, 30 x 23.5cm. Dr. Riccardo Jucker, Milan

H. oeuvres à retrouver 13. Encaustic on millboard, 24.8 x 20cm. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich

Oil on canvas, 48 x 29.1 Mr and Mrs Arthur Altschul, New York

Oil on canvas, 64.5 x 52.5cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

To these should perhaps be added H.109 (pastel on millboard, 55 x 49 cm in a Paris private collection), which the compiler has not seen. No two are exactly the same in colour or treatment, and they are almost all different in size.

Five of the other pictures are complex works comprising three or five motifs arranged horizontally like a frieze. This motif can be recognised in the centre sections of H.112 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and of the watercolour H.351 which is apparently a study for it. It can also be recognised in the centre of H.111 in the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice, and in the section to the left of centre (out of five) in H.118, which is now in the Museum Folkwang in Essen. For the sake of completeness it may be added that two other near-abstract types have their counterparts in the multi-motif paintings. H.116 corresponds to the centre of H.117 which in its turn (with its right-hand motif) corresponds to the centre and right centre of H.118. Finally H.104 is a study for the left-hand sections of H.112, H.118 and H.351. Although Delaunay evidently used the word 'motif' to indicate the sections of the large pictures, it is not possible to be certain that the same word in the inscription on the back of T00920 has this meaning, that is that it identifies it as a study for a section of one of the large works. H.90, H.106 and H.110 are all inscribed '1st part 2nd motif' or '2nd motif 1st part' and are related to the second motif from the left in the composite pictures H.112, H.118 and H.351, but the Tate's picture which represents exactly the same motif is inscribed '1st part 3rd motif'. Moreover H.104, which is different in design, is also inscribed '1st part 2nd motif but is related to the motif on the extreme left of H.112, H.118 and H.351. It should be borne in mind, however, that some of the inscriptions on the backs appear to have been added several years after the pictures were completed and are not to be relied on. H.90, for instance, is dated on the back 1911, but was reproduced in the Der Sturm Delaunay Album of 1913 with the date April 1912.

Two other paintings from this series are dated April 1912: H.104 and H.105, and two are dated either on the picture or in the Delaunay Album June: H.112 and H.351. In addition, H.90 is inscribed as '1st replica', H.743 as 'No.2' and H.110 as 'No.3'. Since H.90 also seems to have been painted in April the last two must have been painted in the same month, if the numbering is to be given any weight. The Tate's picture is similar to H.90 and H.110 and was therefore perhaps painted about May or June. It is also extraordinarily like the Munich picture 'oeuvres à retrouver 13' which is known to have been finished in October 1914, and which may even have been partly painted from it: the two pictures are very similar in colour, though the Munich work is in encaustic instead of in oil. It is at least possible that Delaunay returned to and worked over his paintings at different times. Though there seems to be a tendency for the later versions to be more abstracted and rhythmical in composition, it does not seem possible to trace a clear-cut development in a single direction culminating in the three-motif painting H.117 painted in December, and leading on to Delaunay's later, completely abstract style.

The picture now owned by the Tate appears to have been no.6 in Delaunay's exhibition at Der Sturm in 1913 as the title given in the catalogue corresponds to the one written on the back and it is the only picture to have exactly this title, but the price of DM.3000 could be taken to imply that this work was somewhat larger. (H.90, for instance, which is about the same size, was priced at only DM.1000).

Alexander Tairov, its first owner, was Director of the Kamerny Theatre in Moscow from 1914 to 1940 and from 1946 until his death in 1950. His wife was a ballet dancer who, according to Madame Delaunay, appeared in a ballet with sets by Jacovleff and Alexandra Exter. This was Le Pas d'Acier, 1926. Tairov visited Paris with Lunacharsky in 1923, the year in which Stanislavsky's Arts Theatre was there. This must be the visit referred to in the inscription.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.160-2, reproduced p.160

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