CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Women, Abstraction and Gender Oblivion: Delaunay’s Political Drama

Session 10 Gendered Practices

University of Hartford


At issue ismodernist abstraction’scapacity to neutralizepolitical content and art history’s enduringattachment toabstraction’s rhetoric.Offering a feminist reading of Robert Delaunay’s 1914 painting Political Drama, this paper resuscitates the gender tensions of an era, tensions whose thorough infiltration of Parisian avant-garde circles has remained obscured for over a century. It considers the ramifications of the notorious murder of a newspaper editor by the wife of the Minister of Finance, characters Delaunay appropriated from an illustration and set in dramatic stylistic contrast to hisabstract disk, the now famous icon of his theory of Simultaneity. To understand this baffling choice of subject, it examines an array of graphic and performative actions undertaken by four women in Delaunay’s socialmilieu—Sonia Delaunay, Alice Bailly, Marie Laurencin and Valentine de Saint-Point—revealing their repeated tactic of creating and inhabiting multiple gender positions. It proposes these actions, taken together, as an unprogrammatic strategy for aligning their public images with the avant-garde’s rhetoric of virility, heightened by prewar patriotic fervor. This investigation beyond theories of vision and abstraction challengesart historical narrativesof Delaunay’s work and Anglophone understandings of feminist action.


Sherry Buckberrough is Chair of the Art History Department at the University of Hartford, where she has developed over thirty specialized courses on topics in modern and contemporary art, women’s art, ecoart, history of design, history of color, and contemporary globalism. Her dissertation from the University of California, Berkeley, on Robert Delaunay was published as a monograph and her work of the past forty years has returned consistently to topics in the Parisian avant-garde. She has specialized on the work of Sonia Delaunay, for which she curated the first American retrospective, sponsored by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and accompanied by a major catalogue. Most recently she contributed to the catalogue for Sonia Delaunay, a retrospective shown at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Tate Modern. She has written widely on modernist and contemporary women artists, including Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Mierle Ukeles, Ana Mendieta and Carolee Schneemann and curated an exhibition and contributed essays to the catalogue for WomenArtists@NewBritainMusem at the New Britain Museum of American Art.