An essay on light

This essay is by Robert Delaunay, 1912, the painter that Apollinaire founded Orphism with. There are interesting parallels between Delaunay’s ideas and Apollinaire’s poetry. The movement created by “the rapport of odd elements,” the emphasis on “sensibility,” the idea of “vastness” leading to “Rhythmic Simultaneity” (perhaps also a commentary on the lack of punctuation in Apollinaire), the “vital movement” of both the walking around poems and the “simultaneity” of seeing and perception. Delaunay’s “Let us attempt to see” as correlative to “the spirit of initiative” in Apollinaire’s “The New Spirit and The Poets.” Enough, here is the essay:


“Impressionism; it is the birth of Light in painting.

Light comes to us by the sensibility. Without visual sensibility there is no light, no movement.

Light in Nature creates the movement of colors.

Movement is produced by the rapport of odd elements, of the contrasts of colors between themselves which constitutes Reality.

This reality is endowed with Vastness (we see as far as the stars), and it then becomes Rhythmic Simultaneity.

Simultaneity in light is harmony, the rhythm of colors which creates the Vision of Man. Human vision is endowed with the greatest Reality, since it comes to us directly from the contemplation of the Universe. The eye is the most refined of our senses, the one which communicates most directly with our mind, our consciousness.

The idea of the vital movement of the world and its movement is simultaneity.

Our understanding is correlative to our perception.

Let us attempt to see.

The auditory perception is not sufficient for our knowledge of the world; it does not have vastness.

Its movement is successive, it is a sort of mechanism; its law is the time of mechanical clocks which, like them, has no relation with our perception of visual movement in the Universe.

It is comparable to the objects of geometry ….

Art in Nature is rhythmic and has a horror of constraint. If Art relates itself to an Object, it becomes descriptive, divisionist, literary.

It demeans itself by imperfect means of expression, it condemns itself, it is its own negation, it does not avoid an Art of imitation.

If all the same it represents the visual relations of objects or the objects between them without light playing the organizing role of the representation, it is conventional. It never reaches plastic purity. It is an infirmity; it is the negation of life and the sublimity of the art of painting.

In order that Art attain the limit of sublimity, it must draw upon our harmonic vision: clarity. Clarity will be color, proportion; these proportions are composed of diverse elements, simultaneously involved in an action. This action must be the representative harmony, the synchronous movement (simultaneity) of light which is the only reality.

This synchronous action then will be the Subject, which is the representative harmony.”


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