Sonia Delaunay


Sonia Delaunay, the master of expressive color, used a spectrum of brightly contrasting colors to achieve brilliant effects in all aspects of her art. Her fashion-based approach to the lyrical brand of Cubism was founded on the belief that light and color were identical, and aimed for a purity of expression similar to music.

Active in France, Sonia Delaunay was born Sonia Terk Stern in the Ukraine. She studied art in Germany, and arrived in Paris in 1905. In her early twenties, she enrolled at the Academie de la Palette in Montparnasse. She found the greatest stimulus in exhibitions of avant-garde art that were taking place in Paris at the time, including the 1905 exhibition at the Salon d’Automne of wrks by the artists, later knows as “Les fauves.”

In 1910, she married her second husband Robert Delaunay (1885-1941). For both artists, the basic unit of modernity was the disc. Both artists associated with Cubist, Dada, and Surrealist artists as they elaborated a style of geometric abstract painting known as Orphism.

Delaunay painted using bold black outlines and vibrant colors. She often restricted her palette down to primary colors alone, the reds, blues, and yellows which “are the colors from my childhood, from the Ukraine. Memories of peasant weddings in my country, in which the red and green dresses decorated with many ribbons, billowed in dance.”

Sonia Delaunay produced watercolor and relief prints and concentrated on Art Deco designs. Her paintings were an example of Simultanism, a movement that emphasized vivid colors and geometric shapes to energize the optical experience of a viewer. Simultanism influenced her non-representational paintings, decorative arts, furnishings, textiles, and fashion design. In addition to painting, she made theatrical sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

Delaunay opened a fashion house in Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao. In 1924, she opened one in Paris with Jacques Heim. After World War II she became a board member of the Salon des Realities Nouvelles for several years. In 1964, she and her son donated over 100 works of art, made by her husband and herself, to the Musee National d’Art Moderne.

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