Constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris as a symbol of technological advancement, the Eiffel Tower captured the attention of painters and poets attempting to define the essence of modernity. In his series on the subject (1909 – 12) Robert Delauney developed faceted and fragmented forms typical of the Cubists and presented the tower and surrounding buildings from various perspectives. His technique demonstrated his preference for a sense of vast space, atmosphere and light, while evoking a sign of contemporary life and progress. Many of Delaunay’s city views appear from a window framed by curtains: in Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel, 1911) , the buildings bracketing the structure curve like drapery.
Eiffel Tower was the first of many works by Delaunay that Solomon R. Guggenheim collected following his visit to the artist’s Paris studio in 1930.
By the late 1920s, Rudolf Bauer (1889 – 1953) had replaced the lively and organic symphony of shapes that he had developed in his earlier work with a more balanced aesthetic. Invention (Composition 31) (1933) epitomizes this trend and features flat geometries tightly gravitating toward a dark center, a hazy black shape perhaps symbolizing the ultimate void. Also around this time, museum founder Solomon R. Guggenheim became acquainted with the artist through Bauer’s former companion, Hilla Rebay. Not only was Bauer’s work amassed in depth, but he also played an integral role as Guggenheim’s European agent in the first decade that Guggenheim spent forming his modern art collection. Invention (Composition 31) was reproduced on the cover of the catalogue Art of Tomorrow, which accompanied the opening exhibition of the Guggenheim Museum’s Non-Objective Painting, New York in June 1939.