This painting of a woman reading is one of Robert Delaunay’s nine versions of this theme. Delaunay rarely painted the nude figure, and the series devoted to the subject is unusual in his work. The element that connects Nude woman reading with the broader scope of Delaunay’s art is colour. In a series of Circular forms, painted by Delaunay in 1912, colour is released from any association with reality and is used abstractly to create effects of movement and depth. The Circular forms are seen as the first non-representational paintings by a French artist. Unlike many other early twentieth-century abstractionists, however, Delaunay also continued to paint figurative works. In this category is the Nude woman reading, where the same colour principles used in the abstract paintings are now applied to the human figure.
This boudoir scene of a woman seated reading at a dressing table is a finely tuned orchestration of colour and form. The oval format of the image echoes and accentuates the soft, leaning curve of the woman’s body, and the curve of the oval is repeated in the lines of her hip and left leg. The curvilinear shapes of the body are present in miniature form in the pattern of the cloth on the dressing table. The colour is a similarly balanced yet dynamic arrangement, based on the principles of complementary contrast, which were the foundation of Delaunay’s colour theories.
Text by Rose Stone from 20th century painting and sculpture in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 24.