About This Artwork

Robert Delaunay
French, 1885–1941

Champs de Mars: The Red Tower, 1911/23

Oil on canvas
63 1/4 x 50 5/8 in. (160.7 x 128.6 cm)
Signed and dated, l.r.: "r.d. 1911"
Inscribed on verso: "Champs de Mars / LA Tour rouge / 1911 / r. delaunay (epoque destructive)"

Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1959.1

Robert Delaunay was four years old when the Eiffel Tower was erected in Paris in the public green space known as the Champ de Mars. One of many artists to depict the landmark, Delaunay did a series of Eiffel Tower paintings, of which the Art Institute’s example is among the best known. The artist infused the dynamism of modern life into this image by employing multiple viewpoints, rhythmic fragmentation of form, and strong color contrasts. Delaunay accented the structure’s towering presence by framing it with tall buildings and placing smaller, shorter buildings, seen from above, at its base. The top of the tower seems to soar, its massive structure augmented by winglike clouds and patches of light-filled sky.

The artist first showed this painting in the winter of 1912, at the Galerie Barbazanges in Paris, where Guillaume Apollinaire described the work in a review as "unfinished, whether by design or accident." Although Delaunay’s intent is not recorded, it is certain that by 1923, when this work was illustrated in the pages of the Bulletin de l’effort moderne, it looked as it does today: the artist had repainted portions of the canvas and filled areas of reserve with paint.

— Entry, The Essential Guide, 2013, p.252.

This is one of the most imposing of a series of about eleven paintings that Robert Delaunay devoted to the Eiffel Tower between 1909 and 1911. Erected for the 1889 World's Fair on the Champs de Mars, a military parade ground, the Eiffel Tower had become a widely recognized symbol of modernity. It was originally painted a brilliant red, a color that, together with its steel-girded construction and size (it was the tallest structure in the world, reaching a height of 984 feet), set it apart from the prevalent grayness of the surrounding city, as Delaunay emphasized so effectively in his painting. The imposing size of this canvas further enhances the visionary impact of the tower caught in a blaze of light as shafts of sunlight emanate from it in all directions and yellow sun disks dance around its top. Like an apparition, the tower rises above the surrounding houses, metaphorically shaking the very foundations of the old order.

Unlike his Cubist colleagues, who limited themselves to muted colors and a restricted range of traditional subjects (mostly still lifes, landscapes, and portraits), Delaunay combined a Cubist treatment of form with an interest in color theory and a fascination with contemporary subjects. In this painting, Delaunay brilliantly adapted the Cubist vocabulary of faceted and fragmented forms to render the transparent and seemingly weightless structure of the tower, as well as to evoke the extraordinary sense of excitement many experienced at the dawn of a great, new age of technological marvels. Delaunay's painting conveys this feeling of boundless optimism, the innocence and freshness of a time that had not yet witnessed the two world wars and the destructive potential of this same technology.

A 1912 exhibition photograph of this painting shows that Delaunay elaborated it at a later date.

—Entry, Margherita Andreotti, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, The Joseph Winterbotham Collection at The Art Institute of Chicago (1994), p. 140-141.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Galerie Barbazanges, Les Peintres R. Delaunay, Marie Laurencin, February 28–March 13, 1912, cat. 5.

Berlin, Galerie der Sturm, XII Ausstellung: R. Delaunay, Ardengo Soffici, Julie Baum, February 1913, cat. 1.

Budapest, Museum House, International Post-Impressionist Exhibition, April–May 1913, cat. 41.

São Paolo, Brazil, Conservatório Dramático e Musical, June 12, 1924.

São Paolo, Brazil, exhibited during Tarsila do Amaral show, September 1929.

São Paolo, Brazil, Sociedade Pro Arte Moderna, Primero Exposição de Arte Moderna da Sociedade pro Arte Moderna: Pintura, Escultura, Arquitetura, 1933 (ill.), as Torre Eiffel.

Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, Robert Delaunay (1885–1941), May 25–August 30, 1976, pp. 21 and 54, cat. 29 (ill.); traveled to Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, September 17–November 7, 1976.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Futurism and the International Avant-Garde, October 26, 1980–January 4, 1981, cat. 84 (ill.).

Nagaoka, Japan, Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Masterworks of Modern Art from The Art Institute of Chicago, April 20–May 29, 1994, pp. 92–93, cat. 24 (ill.); traveled to Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, June 10–July 24, 1994, and Yokohama Museum of Art, August 6–September 25, 1994.

New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay's Series, January 16–April 25, 1998, pp. 32–33, and 35, cat. 30 (ill.); traveled to Berlin, Deutsche Guggenheim, November 7, 1997–January 4, 1998.

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Robert Delaunay 1906–1914: De L’Impressionisme à Abstraction, June 3, 1999–August 16, 1999, pp. 137 and 147 (ill.).

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Robert y Sonia Delaunay, 1905–1941, October 8, 2002–January 12, 2003, pp. 154–155, cat. 55 (ill.).

Publication History

Apollinaire, Guillaume, Les Fenêtres (Album edited by R. Delaunay) (Paris, 1912), pl. 3.

Galerie Barbazanges, Les Peintres R. Delaunay, Marie Laurencin, exh. cat. (Paris: Galerie Barbazanges, 1912), cat. 5.

Bulletin de L’Effort Moderne 6 (June 1924), n.p. (ill.), as La Tour Eiffel.

Einstein, Carl, Die Kunst des 20 Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Im Propyläen, 1926), pp. 342 and 563 (ill.), as Der Eifelturm.

Bazin, Germain, “L’Orphisme,” L’Amour de l’Art XIV:10 (December 1933), pp. 246 and 248, fig. 311, as La Tour Eiffel.

Sociedade Pro Arte Moderna, Primero Exposição de Arte Moderna da Sociedade pro Arte Moderna: Pintura, Escultura, Arquitetura, exh. cat. (São Paolo, Brazil: Sociedade Pro Arte Moderna, 1933) (ill.), as Torre Eiffel.

Zervos, Christian, Histoire de l’Art Contemporain (Paris: Éditions Cahiers d’Art, 1938), p. 247 (ill.), as La Tour Eiffel.

“El Juicio de Paris,” Cuadernos Americanos 2:4 (July-August 1943), p. 59 (ill), as La torre Eiffel.

do Amaral, Tarsila, “Recordações de Paris,” Habitat 6 (1952), p. 21 (ill.).

Degand, Léon, “La Peinture Cubiste,” Art d’Aujourd’hui 3–4:4 (1953), p. 15 (ill.), as Torre Eiffel.

Aznar, José Camón, Picasso y el Cubismo (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1956), p. 142, fig. 83, as Tour Eiffel.

Habasque, Guy, Robert Delaunay: Du Cubisme à l’Art Abstrait (Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1957), pp. 261 and 362–363, no. 88, as La Tour Eiffel.

Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 53:3 (1958–1959), p. 10.

Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), pp. 123–4, and 429 (ill.).

Barry, Edward, “A Legacy that Grows—Winterbotham Collection,” The Chicago Tribune (August 25, 1963), p. F4, as Champ de Mars.

Speyer, A. James, “Twentieth-Century Paintings and Sculpture,” Apollo LXXXIV:55 (September 1966), p. 222.

Instituto de Arte de Chicago (El Mundo de los Museos) (Buenos Aires: Editorial Codex, 1967), pp. 14 and 71, no. 58 (ill.).

Vriesen, Gustav and Max Imdahl, Robert Delaunay—Licht und Farbe (Cologne: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1967), p. 40.

Amaral, Aracy A., Blaise Cendrars no Brasil e os modernistas (São Paolo, Brazil: Martins, 1970), pp. 106–107 and 114.

Maxon, John, The Art Institute of Chicago (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970), p. 111 (ill.).

Grung, Sandra, Supplement to Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1971), p. 29.

Morin, Isabelle, Analyse Raisonné des Catalogues d’Exposition des Peintres Cubistes (1907–1914) (Paris: Institut d'art et d'archéologie, 1972), p. 15.

Gordon, Donald E., Modern Art Exhibitions 1900–1916 (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1974), I: 211, no. 904, II: 553, 663, and 702–703.

Amaral, Aracy A., Tarsila—sua obra e seu tempo (São Paolo: Editora Perspectiva, 1975), pp. 86, 115, note, 3, 117, 129, 179, 287, 467, and 487.

Hoog, Michel, Robert Delaunay, trans. by Alice Sachs (New York: Crown Publishers, 1976), p. 19 (ill.).

Rudenstine, Angelica, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880–1945 I (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1976), pp. 104–107.

Orangerie des Tuileries, Robert Delaunay (1885–1941), exh. cat. (Paris: Orangerie des Tuileries, 1976), pp. 21 and 54, cat. 29 (ill.).

Hoog, Michel, “Robert Delaunay,” La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France XXVI:2 (1976), p. 121, fig. 2.

“Le puits et les fenêtres: Robert Delaunay,” L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui 187 (October–November 1976), p. XXI (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago: 100 Masterpieces (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1978), pp. 124–125, no. 72 (ill.).

Buckberrough, Sherry Ann, Robert Delaunay: The Early Years, Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1978, pp. 131–132, 479, 570, pl. 102.

Robert/Sonia Delaunay, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Musée National d’Art Moderne, 1979), n.p. (ill.).

Speyer, A. James and Courtney Graham Donnell, Twentieth Century European Paintings (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 38, no. 1E2.

d’Harnoncourt, Anne, Futurism and the International Avant-Garde, exh. cat. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1980), cat. 84 (ill.).

Clarke, Jane, Gallery Guide (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago) (ill.).

Silk, Gerald D., “Futurism in Context,” Arts Magazine 55:6 (February 1981), p. 148 (ill.).

Glaubinger, Jane, “A Double-Sided Drawing by Ludwig Meidner,” Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art LXIX:9 (November 1982), p. 302, fig. 6.

___, “Two Drawings by Joseph Stella,” Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art LXX:10 (December 1983), p. 383, fig. 3.

Girardet, Sylvie, Claire Merleau-Ponty, and Anne Tardy, “Le muse de fer,” Monuments historiques 132 (April–May 1984), p. 31.

Delaunay und Deutschland, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Dumont Buchverlag, 1985), pp. 153, pl. 6, p. 293, fig. 2, 361, fig. f, and 362.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Joseph Winterbotham Collection: A Living Tradition (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1986), pp. 13, 47 (ill.), and 60, as Champs de Mars (The Red Tower), 1911.

David Travis, “In and Of the Eiffel Tower,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 13:1 (1987), pp. 12, 14–15, fig. 11.

Wood, James N. and Katharine C. Lee, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), p. 116 (ill.).

Nouveau Larousse Encyclopedia (1993).

Wohl, Robert, A Passion for Wings: Aviation and the Western Imagination, 1900–1918 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 183–184, pl. 237.

Wood, James N., Treasures of 19th-and 20th-Century Painting: The Art Institute of Chicago (New York: Abbeville Press, 1993), p. 209 (ill.).

Düchting, Hajo, Robert und Sonia Delaunay: Triumph der Farbe (Cologne: Benedikt Taschen, 1993), pp. 24–25 and 93 (ill.).

Kimura, Shigenobu, Shuji Takashina, and Koichi Kabayama, Journey into the Masterpieces: 20th Century (Kodansha Publishers, 1993).

Masterworks of Modern Art from The Art Institute of Chicago, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun 1994), pp. 92–93, cat. 24 (ill.).

Andreotti, Margherita, “The Joseph Winterbotham Collection,” The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Studies 20:2 (1994), pp. 142–143 (ill.).

Wood, James N. and Teri J. Edelstein, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1996, p. 6 (ill.).

Murphy, Kevin D., “Cubism and the Gothic Tradition,” in Architecture and Cubism (Montreal, Québec: The Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1997), pp. 70–71 (ill.).

Tarsila anos 20, exh. cat. (São Paulo, Brazil: Galeria de Arte do Sesi, 1997), p. 124.

Tarsila do Amaral: Projeto Cultural Artistas do Mercosul (São Paulo, Brazil: Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, 1998), pp. 36–37 and 221 (ill.).

Rosenthal, Mark, Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay’s Series, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1998), pp. 32–33, and 35, cat. 30 (ill.).

Gotlib, Nádia Battella, Tarsila do Amaral, a modernista (São Paulo, Brazil: Editora SENAC, 1998), pp. 164–165 and 166 (ill.).

Art and its Histories: The Challenge of the Avant-Garde (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 161–162, pl. 127.

Robert Delaunay 1906–1914: De L’Impressionisme à Abstraction, exh. cat. (Paris: Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 1999), pp. 137 and 147 (ill.).

Amaral, Aracy, Tarsila Cronista (São Paulo, Brazil: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 2001), pp. 71–72, as Tour Eiffel.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Robert y Sonia Delaunay, 1905–1941, exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza 2002), pp. 154–155, cat. 55 (ill.).

Sotheby’s, New York, Russian Art (New York: Sotheby’s, April 23, 2004), p. 82, fig. 2, as The Eiffel Tower.

Ownership History

Sold by Galerie L’Effort Moderne, Paris, to Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973), Paris and São Paolo, Brazil, 1923 [letter from Aracy A. Amaral of July 15, 1975 in curatorial file]; sold to the Galerie Michel Couturier, Paris, c. 1952 [letter mentioned above]. Sold by Justin K. Thannhauser, New York, to the Art Institute, 1959.

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