Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay

Delauney was a Jewish-French artist who co-founded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre (in 1964), and in 1975 was named an officer of the Légion d’honneur. Read more

Born in Ukraine in 1885, Delauney (nėe Terk) came to Paris in 1906 after studying at St. Petersburg and Karlsruhe in Germany. In 1909 she married the critic Wilhelm Uhde (a friend of Picasso's), but divorced him to marry, in the next year, the painter Robert Delaunay. With him she founded the Orphism movement and they were responsible for many of the set and costume designs for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe.

Her interests went beyond abstract art to decorative arts and design, however. Delaunay ignored the traditional idea that applied art was inferior, and believed that fashion and household objects offered problems as interesting and important as those of painting. At the beginning of the 20th century devices like collage and construction posed new questions about the world by creating tensions between the function of a picture or object and its purely formal qualities. The world and its objects were entering into pictures in a more complex way, and in this development Sonia saw a revitalized dialogue between art and life, one familiar to her from the traditions of her native Ukraine. She was awarded many prizes throughout her lifetime and her work can be seen in many, many galleries worldwide.

By the time Delaunay died at home in Paris in 1979, she had received the Légion d’honneur and painted the poster for the International Women’s Year of UNESCO (both 1975), collaborated in costume designs for a production at the Comédie-Française (Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1978), and taken part in the Paris-Moscow Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou (1979), to which she had donated her entire graphic work in 1976. Her recognition as an artist was such that President Georges Pompidou (1911–1974), on an official visit to the United States, brought one of Delaunay’s paintings as a gift from the French government.

June/July/August 2014

If you are planning a trip to Paris this Autum, be sure to catch Sonia Delaunay: Les Coleurs de L'abstraction at the beautiful Musee D'Art Moderne (MAM), which runs from October 17th - Febuary 2015. Comprising over 400 paintings, wall hangings, prints, fashion items and textiles, the exhibition is the first major survey of  Delaunay's work since her 1967 retrospective.