Orphism is the teachings of an ancient Greek philosophical cult which exerted great influence on Greek culture, and later on Western mysticism and occultism, as well as alchemy.

It began in the sixth century BC, and is attributed to the mythical Orpheus. The chief teachings are of reincarnation, a Greek version of Karma, a history of the universe which was formed by Chronos who formed an egg and created the first king of the gods, whom Zeus supplanted and fathered Dionysus, the divine child.

Other teachings are that the body is the prison of the soul, animals were not to be killed or eaten, the good were to be rewarded while the evil were to be punished in netherworld, and teachings of self-denial and seriousness in religious matters. Apollo was the kindered god who demanded purification and righteousness.

Orphism is also a term applied to a small yet influential sect of analytical Cubism. It was popularised by the French painter Robert Delaunay and his wife Sonia Terk during the early part of the 1910s. Unlike most paintings of the time, there was no specific subject matter of their paintings. They were, rather, studies in colour and geometry. Overlapping circles, squares and traingles made of the composition and these shapes were painted in a luminous pallette, each painting containing colours from all points of the spectrum. Their work blossomed for a short period of time, but was highly influential in the world of art and their influence can be seen mainly in the works of the painters of Der Blauer Reiter, most notably Wassily Kandinsky.

Another painter in this school is the then-Czechoslovakian Frantisek Kupka. Like Delaunay and Terk, his paintings had very little in the way of subject matter and were usually abstract geometric designs, usually prismatic shapes akin to jewel facets. Unlike them though, Kupka's pallette was far more subdued and tended to gradiate from black. This added a contrast which was also not present in the Delaunay's work. He added to this contrast by juxtaposing warm and cold colours, a technique again seen in Der Blauer Reiter and further in the works of field painters like Mark Rothko.

Orphism was a minor turn in the Cubist movement, but it embraced certain techniques, the spectral pallette and a more abstract subject matter, which were relatively unused. Although still relatively unknown, it was definately an important movement.

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