Explosion lyrique no E exemplifies the riot of pure colour and dynamism which characterize a series of over twenty paintings by Magnelli from 1918 to 1919. The artist described this group of works as 'An explosion of joy at the end of World War One' (Magnelli, quoted in D. Abadie, Alberto Magnelli, New York, 1985, p. 5). While they may indeed give expression to the artist's own euphoria at the end of a very dark period in Europe's history, they more notably represent the joyous conclusion of a four-year period of experimentation whereby the artist avidly explored the possibilities of dynamic form and explosive colour.
The spring of 1914 was a pivotal moment for the young artist. Just before the outbreak of war, the young Florentine artist accompanied the poet Aldo Palazzeschi on a trip to Paris where they met friends Ardengo Soffici, Giovanni Papini and Carlo Carrà. Already acquainted with Futurism, this visit to the centre of the avant-garde brought him into direct contact with the leading movements of the day, namely Cubism through Picasso to whom he was introduced by Kahnweiler and Fauvism through Matisse, to whose studio he was invited by Apollinaire. Indeed it was Apollinaire who remarked on the solidity and colour of Magnelli's work and urged him towards 'pure' painting. These profound influences and Magnelli's openness to them set him on the path to complete abstraction on his return to Florence in 1915 when he produced his ground-breaking non-representational paintings.
In 1916, Magnelli's return to figuration saw his vivid palette and simplified form underpinned by a geometric restraint, which ultimately loosened into the more exuberant compositions of the 1918-1919 Explosions lyriques series. In Explosion lyrique no E, bold lines of strong colour describe the curves and angles that inject a sense of dynamism while also giving definition to the figure in the composition. Crucially the artist maintains a sense of equilibrium by varying the colour of the line to create harmony between the principal blocks of blues, pinks, yellows and browns. Explosion lyrique no E thus, in the words of Daniel Abadie describing the whole series, allows colour to 'take absolute command. Colour is at once line and surface, rhythm, and composition' (ibid, p. 5).