Jean-Louis Delaunay and Richard Riss have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
'Visions of catastrophic insight, prejudices, neurasthenias, neurosis, sweeping the old away; cosmic shakings, desire for the great cleanup, for burying the old, the past. Light deforms everything, breaks everything; no more geometry, Europe crumbles. Breath of madness (futurism before the theory): dislocation of the successive object. Planetary waves.'
In his Premier cahier, a compilation of writings dating from 1939-1940, Robert Delaunay called the Eiffel Tower 'my barometer', in the sense that this Paris landmark, an enduring symbol of pioneering modernity, had served him throughout his career as the subject in which he traced the evolution of his art (A.A. Cohen, ed., The New Art of Color: The Writings of Robert and Sonia Delaunay, New York, 1978, p. 23). The Tower was the motif that had guided Delaunay to the cutting edge of Cubism on the eve of the First World War, and it remained at the centre of his pictorial world during the inter-war period.
The present view of the Eiffel Tower, is one of two vantage points that Delaunay typically employed in his treatment of this motif. In La Tour Eiffel we see the artist studying from the ground, looking upward along one of the legs of the structure to the very tip of the spire. Placing the Tower at the centre of a horizon-less composition - flat all around in perfect adherence with the modernist concept of the picture plane - inspired numerous compositional possibilities.
Gustave Eiffel constructed his ironwork tower as the entrance arch to the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. While then the tallest man-made structure in the world, and the pride of France, it was not until Delaunay first painted the Tower in 1909 that this subject attracted the interest of the early 20th century modernist avant-garde. 'During the years 1910 and 1911,' the poet Blaise Cendrars wrote in 1924, 'Robert Delaunay and I were possibly the only people in Paris to speak of machines and art and to have the vaguest awareness of the great transformation of the modern world' ('The Eiffel Tower', in ibid., p. 171).
While recovering from a broken leg in a room at the Hôtel du Paris, Cendrars had a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. 'Delaunay came almost every day to keep me company,' the poet reminisced. 'He was always haunted by the Tower... I was able to be present at an unforgettable drama: the struggle of one artist with a subject so completely new that he did not know how to seize and subdue it... Delaunay wanted nothing less than to show Paris all around her with the Tower situated in her midst. We tried every vantage point, from every angle, from all sides...Delaunay wanted to interpret it plastically. He disarticulated the Tower in order to get inside its structure. He truncated it and he tilted it in order to disclose all of its three hundred dizzying meters of height. He adopted ten points of view, fifteen perspectives - one part seen from above, another from below...from the height of a bird in flight, from the depths of the earth itself' (ibid., pp. 174 and 175).
This initial Tower series of 1911-1912 in which La Tour Eiffel is from, perfectly encapsulates Cendrar’s description of Delaunay’s relationship with the subject, and it was the outcome of his transformative journey through Cubism, during which he experienced, as he later wrote, 'Visions of catastrophic insight, prejudices, neurasthenias, neurosis, sweeping the old away; cosmic shakings, desire for the great cleanup, for burying the old, the past. Light deforms everything, breaks everything; no more geometry, Europe crumbles. Breath of madness (futurism before the theory): dislocation of the successive object. Planetary waves' (ibid., p. 13). The inclusion of this exquisitely rare drawing in the Pompidou's major 1999 exhibition of Delaunay's work is testament to its wider importance within his oeuvre, not just in its subject matter but also in its execution.