Friday, May 18, 2007

L'Équipe de Cardiff

French painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) belonged to no particular artistic school but was nonetheless highly influential. He had associations with the Fauves, the Cubists, and took part in the Blaue Reiter exhibition in Munich (1912-13). He is also regarded as the founder of Orphism and Simultaneism in art.

One of his paintings in particular has always intrigued me: L'Équipe de Cardiff (The Cardiff Team) (1912-13). There are several versions of the work in existence. The example pictured here hangs in the Stedelijk van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven.

In L'Équipe de Cardiff we can see various adverts; a ferris wheel; and Delaunay's favourite motif the Eiffel Tower. Also discernable is a rugby ball flying through the air. On closer inspection we can observe that there is a rugby match in progress and that a line-out has just been taken.

The title of the work indicates - of course - that it must have been the Cardiff rugby team in action. A visit to the newspaper archive confirms this - the match was in fact Stade Francaise v Cardiff, which took place at the Parc de Princes in February 1912. Egg chasers from the capital will be delighted to learn that Cardiff won 3-19. Both teams were enthusiastically cheered off the field at the game's conclusion.

Did Delaunay attend the match in question? Possibly - a large crowd certainly turned up to witness the contest. However his painting is actually based upon a photograph culled from a Parisian newspaper. Aside from the adverts, Ferris wheel and Eiffel Tower, the newspaper would have a fairly convincing case for copyright infringement. The rugby players in Delaunay's "sample" exactly echo the composition of the photograph.

It's an interesting example of his art and with the Rugby World Cup taking place in France later this year it might be a good idea for a French gallery to showcase L'Équipe de Cardiff . Not only is it a classic work of modern art but probably the most famous rugby-related painting on earth.