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Definition: Orphism from Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

A movement in painting started by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) as a development from Cubism and characterized by patches and swirls of intense and contrasting colours. The name, given by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire in 1912, alludes to the poetry of the mythological Greek poet Orpheus. Artists associated with the movement apart from Delaunay include Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), František Kupka (1871-1957), Fernand Léger (1881-1955) and Francis Picabia (1879-1953). See also Cubism; Dadaism; Fauvism; Futurism; Ruralism; Surrealism; Synchromism; Vorticism.


Summary Article: Orphism
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Type of abstract or semi-abstract painting practised by a group of artists in Paris between 1911 and 1914. Orphism owed much to the fragmented forms of cubism (indeed it is sometimes called Orphic cubism). However, while cubism at this time was coolly intellectual and almost colourless, Orphism used lush and exciting colour. The name Orphism was first used in 1913 by the poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire, alluding to Orpheus, the poet and singer in Greek mythology; it indicated that the Orphists wanted to introduce a feeling of poetry to the serious and strict approach to cubism, as practised by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. The central figure of Orphism was Robert Delaunay, and other artists in his circle included Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, and the Czech-born Franz Kupka. Initially the Orphists based their pictures on the external world (Delaunay, for example, did a series of paintings featuring the Eiffel Tower), but by 1912 both Delaunay and Kupka (whose work was very similar at this time) were painting pure abstracts. These were the first abstracts painted by French artists.

The Orphist group was broken up by World War I, but in spite of its short life it had considerable influence. Several of the German expressionists, notably Paul Klee, August Macke, and Franz Marc, were greatly impressed with Delaunay's paintings (Klee visited him in Paris in 1912), and they adopted aspects of his style in their work, particularly his use of colour. Orphism was also very similar to Synchromism, a movement founded in 1912 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell, two US artists living in Paris. Their work helped to spread Delaunay's type of vibrantly colourful abstract painting to the USA.

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