Friday, 7 June 2019

Favourite Paintings: Sonia Delaunay 'Le Bal Bullier'

One of my favourite paintings is 'Le Bal Bullier' by Sonia Delaunay. It was painted in 1913 and is inspired by the tango craze that swept across Paris in the early 1910s. Sonia used to go to the Bal Bullier dancehall in Paris and sketched the dancers that ended up in this painting.

The painting is 12 feet long and the eye can't help but sweep from left to right as the dancers swirl across the painting. It's often cited as an example of the colour theory of Orphism, using primary colours against secondary colours - Sonia was very hot on colour theories and used them and experimented with them throughout her life in various media. I tend to respond to paintings on a more emotional rather than intellectual level. I don't see the theory, I see life and joy and movement and colour. I see the effect of that theory.

I saw this painting as part of the exhibition of Sonia's works at Tate Modern in 2015 and I visited it many times - I like colour. Each time I saw it I was drawn further into the dance. I stopped seeing blocks of colour and shapes and started to see couples dancing, enjoying the movement and the music and being together, and then started seeing movement as the couples danced across the dance floor. That's one of the magical things about painting - the painter doesn't dictate what you see. We all respond to art in different ways and that's a good thing.

I especially like that Sonia not only used the Bal Bullier dancehall as inspiration but she was part of it and designed her own dress to wear when she went there. That was included in the Tate exhibition.

'Le Bal Bullaire' is part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris so I'll have to pay it a visit on my next trip to Paris.

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