Robert-Victor-Félix Delaunay was born April 12, 1885, in Paris. In 1902, after secondary education, he apprenticed in a studio for theater sets in Belleville. In 1903, he started painting and by 1904 was exhibiting, that year and in 1906 at the Salon d’Automne and from 1904 until World War I at the Salon des Indépendants. Between 1905 and 1907, Delaunay became friendly with Henri Rousseau and Jean Metzinger and studied the color theories of Michel-Eugène Chevreul. During these years, he was painting in a Neo-Impressionist manner; Paul Cézanne’s work also influenced Delaunay around this time. From 1907–08, he served in the military in Laon, and upon returning to Paris he had contact with the Cubists. The period 1909–10 saw the emergence of Delaunay’s personal style; he painted his first Eiffel Tower in 1909. In 1910, Delaunay married the painter Sonia Terk, who became his collaborator on many projects.
Delaunay’s participation in exhibitions in Germany and association with advanced artists working there began in 1911, the year Vasily Kandinsky invited him to participate in the first Blaue Reiter exhibition at Heinrich Thannhauser’s Moderne Galerie in Munich. At this time, he became friendly with Guillaume Apollinaire, Albert Gleizes, and Henri Le Fauconnier. In 1912, Delaunay’s first solo show took place at the Galerie Barbazanges, Paris, and he began his Windows pictures. In 1913, Delaunay painted his Circular Form, or Disc, pictures.
From 1914 to 1920, Delaunay lived in Spain and Portugal and became friends with Sergei Diaghilev, Leonide Massine, Diego Rivera, and Igor Stravinsky. He designed decor for the Ballets Russes in 1918. By 1920, he had returned to Paris, where in 1922 an exhibition of his work was held at Galerie Paul Guillaume, and he began his second Eiffel Tower series. In 1924, he undertook his Runner paintings and in 1925 executed frescoes for the Palais de l’Ambassade de France at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs in Paris. In 1937, he was commissioned to decorate the Palais des Chemins de Fer and Palais de l’Air at the Paris World’s Fair. His last works were decorations for the sculpture hall of the Salon des Tuileries in 1938. Delaunay died October 25, 1941, in Montpellier, France.