Art Quiz: The Answer is Simultaneism

This turned out to be one of the most interesting questions in the quiz, in my opinion. I’d never heard of orphism, and I’d never heard of simultaneism (or simultanism, if you prefer), and I’d never even heard of the husband and wife artists, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, so everything I learned today was new to me, and I found it quite fascinating.

Simultaneism, you see, was not an art movement. It was not any sort of art collective or trendy school of thought. It was, rather, a term derived by Robert Delaunay to describe the abstract art that he and his wife were creating in the early 1900s. He adopted the term from the color theories of French scientist Michel Chevreul, who had published Do la loi du contraste simultanee des coleurs 1839. That title translates to “On the Law of the Simultaneous Contrast of Colors”. As artists, I think we’re all familiar with and can readily agree with the concept of color relativity — specifically the ways in which hues look different depending upon the colors around them.

Chevreul’s ideas had a strong influence on many French painters from the impressionist movement, and for the post-impressionists and neo-impressionists.

The Delaunays paintings used a lot of overlapping colors or color planes, often in complementary colors. The Tate Art Museum says this:

“… in reality, contrasting colors brought together (i.e. simultaneous) enhance each other, giving the painting greater intensity and vibrance of color.”

Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif) 1912 Robert Delaunay 1885-1941 Purchased 1967

Initially it seems the Delaunays and their artworks were based primarily on architectural elements, as in the painting shown above. In time, however, other elements were incorporated into their art.

Endless Rhythm 1934 Robert Delaunay 1885-1941 Purchased 1970

I have seen “Endless Rhythm” before. In fact, I shared this painting before in a post I wrote about rhythm in art: I’ve Got More Rhythm.

Again, from the Tate:

“The colored discs strung out diagonally across the picture are so arranged that each one leads on to the next and the movement is directed back again into the picture at the two ends. Perhaps because of this infinitely looping effect, the artist’s wife Sonia considered Endless Rhythm to be the most appropriate title. The year after painting this, Delaunay was commissioned to paint murals for the Aeronautics pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition; the resulting compositions included discs, rings and color rhythms on a huge scale.”

I found it interesting that this couple created an art style that was so uniquely their own, so much so that they devised their own term for it. Later, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire coined the term orphism to describe not only the Delaunays’ art, but that of other cubist-influenced avant-garde artists. By the way, Apollinaire also came up with the term “cubist”.

Since I’ve been studying color theory again and have been using colors differently in my most recent paintings, this art quiz question was especially meaningful. I’ll be looking at more art by Robert and Sonia Delaunay to learn more about how to use color in exciting ways.


  1. I really love the Delaunay’s work, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris has a wonderful collection of original pieces – my favourite artwork by Sonia Delaunay is ‘Le bal Bullier’, a perfect example of her brilliant use of colour… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From your article, it sounds like Simultaneism is Color’s take on Chiaroscuro. Is that inference totally wrong? Very interesting stuff to this WORD ARTIST (and terrible VISUAL ARTIST!!).

    Liked by 2 people

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