Portuguese Woman (Tall Portuguese Woman)

Robert Delaunay

Portuguesa (la gran Portuguesa)

Delaunay, Robert

París, 1885 - Montpellier, 1941

Portuguese Woman (Tall Portuguese Woman) ,1916

© Robert Delaunay, L & M Services B.V. The Hage

Signed & dated lower left: ''r. delaunay 1916''.
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

Wax on canvas

180 x 205 cm


Artwork history

  • Sonia Delaunay

  • Louis Carré Gallery, París

  • Gmurzynska Gallery, Köln, April 1998.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection


Documenta I, Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, n. 146


Robert Delaunay, Lieja, Musée des Beaux-Arts, n. 7


R. Delaunay, Leverkusen, Städtisches Museum Morsbroich; Friburgo, Kunstverein, n. 44, lám. 7


Robert Delaunay, Hamburgo, Kunstverein; Colonia, Wallraf-Richartz Museum; Frankfurt, Kunstverein, n. 33, lám. Como: "Galerie Louis Carré, París


La peinture sous le signe de Blaise Cendrars: Robert Delaunay - Fernand Léger, París, Galerie Louis Carré, n. 2


Sónia e Robert Delaunay em Portugal e os seus amigos Eduardo Vianna, Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, José Pacheco, Almada Negreiros, Lisboa, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, n. 61, lám. Como: "Col. Louis Carré - París"


Le Centenaire - Robert et Sonia Delaunay, París, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, n. 42, lám. p. 88. Como: "La Grande Portugaise"/"Col. A. Gmurzynska, Köln"

1985 - 1986

Delaunay und Deutschland, Múnich, Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst im Haus der Kunst, n. 113, p. 349

1991 - 1992

Sonia & Robert Delaunay. Künstlerpaare - Künstlerfreunde / Dialogues d'artistes - résonances, Berna, Kunstmuseum Bern, n. 50, lám. p. 105. Como: "Portugaise (La grande portugaise)"


Robert Delaunay. Sonia Delaunay. Frank Kupka, Punkaharju, Retretti Art Center, n. 3, p. 37

1998 - 1999

Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Tokio, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Takaoka, Takaoka Art Museum; Nagoya, Matsuzaka Art Museum; Sendai, Miyagi Museum of Art, n. 84, p. 188


Do impresionismo ó fauvismo: A pintura do cambio de século en París. Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Santiago de Compostela, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, n. 33, pp. 100-102

1999 - 2000

Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Barcelona, Centre Cultural Caixa Catalunya, pp. 176-178


Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, México, DF, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, p. 128


Del post-impresionismo a las vanguardias. Pintura de comienzos del siglo XX en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, n. 45, p. 144-146

2000 - 2001

La Révolte de la couleur. De l'impressionnisme aux Avant-gardes. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la Collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bruselas, Musée d'Ixelles, n. 22, p. 72-74


Il trionfo del colore. Collezione Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Kandinsky, Roma, Palazzo Ruspoli, pp. 176-178

2002 - 2003

Robert y Sonia Delaunay. 1905-1941, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, n. 51, p. 146


La tradición moderna en la Colección Carmen Thyssen. Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Málaga, Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, p. 122, lám. p. 123

2012 - 2013

Gauguin y el viaje a lo exótico, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, n. 94, lám. p. 233


Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, p. 132, lám. p. 133

2015 - 2016

O Círculo Delaunay. Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian, Lisboa. p. 27 lam, p. 261.


Sonia Delaunay. Arte, diseño y moda. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid. July, 4 - October, 15, 2017. Cat. 22, p. 78-79.


Pessoa. Todo arte es una forma de literatura. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid. p. 192-193.

2018 - 2019

Femina Feminae. Las Musas y La Coleccionista. De Piazzetta a Delaunay. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra. p. 50-51 y p. 80-81.

  • -Habasque, Guy: Du Cubisme à l’art abstrait. Delaunay, Robert. París, S.E.V.P.E.N., 1957 , n. 177, p. 279.

  • -Muller, Joseph-Émile: La Peinture moderne, de Manet à Mondrian. París, F. Hazan, 1960, lám. p. 112.

  • -Haftmann, Werner: Malerei im 20. Jahrhundert. Munich, Prestel, 1965, n. 201, repr. p. 101.

  • -Calvesi, Maurizio: “Futurismo e Orfismo”,  L’Arte Moderna, n. 43, vol. V, Mailand, 1967, lám. p. 255.

  • -Vriesen, Gustav y Imdahl, Max: Robert Delaunay: Light and Color. New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1967, p. 77, fig. 15.

  • -Molinari, Danielle: Robert et Sonia Delaunay. Paris, Nouvelles Editions Francaises, 1987 , n. 148, p. 102.

  • -Düchting, Hajo: Robert und Sonia Delaunay. Triumph der Farbe. Cologne, Benedikt Taschen, 1993 , lám. p. 54.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 282, lám. p. 283 [ Sheet by Tomàs Llorens]

  • -Subirachs, Jordi Cerdà: “Mouvement de nouveauté”, en Suroeste. Relaciones literarias y artísticas entre Portugal y España (1890-1936). [Exhib. Cat.] Madrid, Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones; Badajoz, Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, 2010, pp. 212-229, lám. p. 212.

  • -Borobia, Mar y Alarcó, Paloma (eds.): Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Obras escogidas. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2011, p. 252, lám. p. 253.

  • -Alarcó, P. y Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 348, lám. p. 349.

  • -Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, p. 132, lám. p. 133 (Exhib. Cat.).

  • -O Círculo Delaunay. Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian, Lisboa. p. 27 lam, p. 261. (Exhib. Cat.).

  • -Sonia Delaunay. Arte, diseño y moda. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, 2017. Cat. 22, p. 78-79. (Exhib. Cat.)

  • -Pessoa. Todo arte es una forma de literatura. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid, 2018. p. 192-193. [Exhib. Cat.]

  • – Femina Feminae. Las Musas y La Coleccionista. De Piazzetta a Delaunay. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra.[Exhib. Cat. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra], 2018. P.  50-51 y p. 80-81 [Sheet by Tomás Llorens]

Expert report

Robert and Sonia Delaunay were spending the summer in San Sebastian at the outbreak of World War I, in August 1914. The fact that Robert had been declared unsuitable for military service on medical grounds in 1908 enabled them to remain in Spain, which was a neutral country; their choice was reinforced by their internationalist and pacifist convictions. In the autumn of that year, the Delaunays moved to Madrid, where they stayed until June 1915; then, after travelling to Lisbon, they decided to settle in Vila do Conde, near Oporto. They remained there until March 1916, and, after another sojourn in Spain-in Vigo-they returned to Portugal and lived in Valença do Minho until the beginning of 1918, when they moved back to Madrid.

During their long stay in Portugal, Robert and Sonia Delaunay contributed decisively to the activity of the Orfeu group, a Portuguese offshoot of Simultaneism, promoted in 1913 by Apollinaire and Delaunay in Paris with the ultimate aim of constructing the artistic equivalent of modern man’s vital experience. The incomes they were receiving from their respective families (and which, in Sonia’s case, ceased at the end of 1917 due to the Russian Revolution) allowed them to dedicate themselves fully to painting. Thus, their stay in Portugal was one of the happiest and more fruitful creative periods of the Delaunay couple.

Although in 1912 and 1913 Robert Delaunay had executed entirely abstract paintings-in the sense that they totally lacked figurative references-for him abstraction did not so much have an artistic value per se (as it had for Kandinsky and Kupka), as an instrumental value to be used within Simultaneism. The larger and more ambitious pictures painted by Delaunay in the years after his discovery of abstraction, beginning with the famous Homage to Blériot of 1914, are figurative, although they include areas conceived as abstract paintings.

“Robert and I had the opportunity to observe the laws scientifically discovered by Chevreul […] in nature when we were in Spain and Portugal, where the radiation of light is purer, less misty than in France”, wrote Sonia Delaunay. Similarly, Robert stressed the importance of the Portuguese experience. “After the cold and transparent light of Madrid comes a series of paintings, studies executed under the more humane and closer sun of Portugal. A country in which, as soon as we arrived, we felt enveloped in a dream-like atmosphere, of slowness […]. Violent contrasts of splashes of colour in the women’s dresses, of the multicoloured shawls with the cool and metallic greens of the watermelons. Shapes, colours, women that disappear among mountains of pumpkins, of vegetables, in the markets enchanted by the sun […]”.

The works painted by Robert and by Sonia Delaunay in Vila do Conde were a response to this evocation. All of them are based on the experience of the rural market and are interrelated as a systematic series of studies culminating in three large format pictures intimately linked to each other: La verseuse (Habasque, no. 189), belonging to the Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, Portuguese Still Life(Habasque, no. 186), belonging to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, andPortuguese Woman (Tall Portugese Woman) (Habasque, no. 177), which we are analysing here. The first one, slightly smaller than the other two, is also the more figurative. Portuguese Still Life and Portuguese Woman (Tall Portuguese Woman)have a similar format and composition, and only differ in the figure depicted in the second, referred to in the title.

The peculiar effect of chromatic saturation emanating from the pictures painted by Delaunay in Portugal is due to the use of a special technique, a variation of the encaustic method, in which the pigments are mixed with oil and wax. This technique, which the Delaunays had learned in Paris from the Mexican painter Zárraga, also guarantees a greater persistence of the luminosity of the colours, although its practice is slow and difficult, and the Delaunays abandoned it after their stay in Portugal.

The painting analysed here appears with the title Portuguese Woman in Habasque’s catalogue and in all the bibliography before 1985. However, since the retrospective exhibition held at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1985), the title Tall Portuguese Woman has become widely accepted. We have adopted it, since it can be thus distinguished from other paintings of a much smaller format, with similar or identical titles-Portuguese Women (Habasque, no. 166), Portuguese Woman(Habasque, no. 172) and Portuguese Woman (Habasque, no. 176).

Tomàs Llorens