When Robert Delaunay painted his Première disque in 1912 (sale, Christie's, New York, Nov. 9, 1991, lot 18), he crossed the threshold into non-objective, non-referential painting. Although the avant-garde watched this development with interest, Delaunay's earlier Fenêtres series actually had a more pervasive influence, especially in Germany and Eastern Europe. Only his wife Sonia, née Terk, herself of Russian origin, experimented consistently in this radical format, as seen in the present work.
The reciprocal influences between Robert and Sonia are difficult to unravel, but it appears that she brought to this relationship her own more strongly developed sense of color, rooted in the work of Gauguin and van Gogh. Unlike Robert, who after 1913 vacillated between non-representational forms and recognizable subject matter, Sonia remained more consistently committed to abstraction in her painting as well as in her applied designs, making only passing reference to the figure.
Sonia Delaunay painted the present work in Portugal, where she and Robert lived during World War I. She experimented further in color, using the theories of Eugène Chevreul, and inspired by the light of Portugal, which "was not violent, but exalted color." (quoted in A.A. Eshen, Sonia Delaunay, New York, 1975, p. 67)