'I fell completely in love with this painting because of its sheer joy, movement and carefree energy.'

Le Bal Bullier, 1913, by Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979), 3ft by 12½ft, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Marco Forgione says:
I fell completely in love with this painting because of its sheer joy, movement and carefree energy. It captures the radical principles of the artist, inviting the viewer to leap into a liberating festival of sensual exuberance. The mix of couples, tightly pressed, dancing the tango, captured in such vibrant colour, provides a vivid portrayal of euphoria and freedom. However, its context—having been created just before the start of the First World War—leaves me with a sense of foreboding. All of which serves as a personal reminder to be focused and present in the moment.

Marco Forgione is CEO of the British Antique Dealers’ Association

John McEwen comments on Le Bal Bullier:
Colour brings me joy,’ said Sonia Delaunay. Born Sara Elievna Stern to modest Jewish parents in Odessa, Ukraine, at seven, she was entrusted to the care of a rich maternal uncle and his wife in St Petersburg, adopting their surname, Terk, and always called Sonia. With the Terks, she travelled widely throughout Europe, visiting the great museums, and, at 17, was sent to art school at Karlsruhe. She finished her training in Paris, where she lived from 1906.

To avoid returning to St Petersburg, Sonia married Wilhelm Uhde, whose Parisian gallery was among the first to exhibit Cubist and naïve art and the first to show her pictures. It was a marriage of convenience, encouraged by the vogue among russian intellectuals for non-sexual marriages blancs, based on shared social or intellectual interests. The avant-garde Sonia was always passionately Russian in attitude. Through Uhde, she met a French pioneer of abstract art, Robert Delaunay, whom she married in 1910. This was a sexual union, but also a meeting of minds. ‘As they wake up, the Delaunays speak painting,’ said the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.

Colour and dance were the Parisian rage. ‘Fauvism’ introduced figures and landscapes painted in violent unrepresentational colours. The bright colours of Russian folk art were sensationally incorporated into Diaghilev’s Russian ballet productions.

Le Bal Bullier was a Parisian dance hall celebrated for the latest dance fads: the tango and the foxtrot. In Sonia’s semi-abstract celebration of the animated scene, the dancers can be interpreted as three couples or one in sequence, the globes of the still exciting electric lights glowing overhead.

 

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