Sonia Delaunay : “For me, there is no difference between my painting and my so-called decorative work, I have never considered minor arts to be artistically frustrating, on the contrary, it is an extension of my art”.
Sonia Delaunay, born in Ukraine on November 14, 1885, is a Ukrainian painter and designer known worldwide for her colorful and geometric works of art. At the age of five, she was adopted by her uncle Terk, a lawyer in St. Petersburg.
In 1903 she began studying drawing Arts at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts in Germany with Ludwig Schmidt-Reutler. She moved to Paris in 1905, where she studied at the Académie de la Palette in the Montparnasse district. Her first marriage to Wilhelm Uhde in 1908 brought her into influential literary, cultural and artistic circles. In fact, she met there Robert Delaunay, who would become her second husband in 1909.
Her Parisian period allowed her to discover great neo-classical authors. Among them: Charles Cottet, Edmond Aman Jean, George Desvallières, Lucien Simon and Jacques Emile Blanche. But soon enough, their working methods did not meet her expectations. Therefore, she decides to step back and seek her own inspiration with Paul Gauguin, Pierre Bonnard, Vuillard, André Derain and others. They are exhibited in a gallery close to La Madeleine: the Bernheim Gallery where Sonia Delaunay often goes. These painters are at the origin of a new style: Fauvism, which she is enthusiastic about, but which she will soon overcome.
Fauvism is an artistic current of expressionist painting which was born in France. It began around 1903 and came to an end in 1910. In spite of this, it has considerably marked the history of Art by liberating color in particular.
Fauvism is characterized by the novelty of its simplified forms and very marked contours: this is how their current can be linked to the expressionism that appeared in Germany at about the same time.
Sonia’s Fauvist period is very important. In fact, she gives off her taste for bright colors, as in Jeune Fille Endormie (1907, oil on canvas and wooden support, 46 × 55 cm), as well as in the Nu jaune (1908, oil on canvas 65 × 98 cm, kept at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes).
After this period linked to Fauvism, inspired by Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, she is at the origin of a new form of painting called orphism. It did not correspond to any real movement back then. However, it was nevertheless inspired by Cubism. At the time, Sonia and her husband Robert Delaunay mainly worked together on the search of the movement of simultaneous colors, a trend that inspired other painters after them, such as Fernand Léger and Jasper Johns.
The artist couple is committed to simultaneousism. In fact, it refers to a geometric style and a juxtaposition of colors that she will pursue and reinvent on her own after the death of her husband.
Moreover, in 1946 she created the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in order to promote abstraction.
In the post-war period, Sonia Delaunay’s painting underwent a profound renewal. It culminated, at the end of the 1960s, in an abstract art. Her formal and technical creativity was then expressed in monumental works in paintings, mosaics, carpets and tapestry.
She continues to explore this path throughout her career. She designed textiles and interior decorations. In 1964, Delaunay became the first living female artist to be granted a retrospective at the Louvre in Paris. She died on December 5, 1979 in Paris at the age of 94. She donated all her graphic works to the Centre Pompidou three years earlier in 1976.
An artist who inspires D’ESTRËE
With their breathtaking modernity, Sonia Delaunay’s fashion designs never cease to fascinate. Participating in the artistic avant-gardes of the early 20th century (expressionism, fauvism, abstraction, etc.), she had the idea of applying her pictorial research to her textiles.
She leaves behind an abundant body of work that also includes printed fabrics, artists’ books, and haute couture dresses, including Nancy Cunard’s famous dress. Her first textile work was a blanket for her son Charles.
With bright colors and geometric shapes, Sonia Delaunay continues today to be an essential source of inspiration!