The artist Sonia Delaunay (nee Terk) was born in Ukraine in 1885 and moved to Paris in 1905. The young artist encountered two painters who exerted an important influence on her work: Gauguin and van Gogh. She met and married painter Robert Delaunay in 1910. Both were influenced by the Neo-Impressionists whose intuitive, spontaneous method of painting they admired as well as their systematic placement of color, and their early work could be categorized as Fauvism, work characterized by bold , saturated colors. They were an important couple during this volatile period in the arts (rise of cubism, jazz, dada, etc.), and were friends with Paul Klee, Franz Marc, August Macke, as well as Guillaume Appollinaire and Blaise Cendrars. All were interested in the harmonies and relationships between art, music and literature. Together the Delaunays formulated a theory of color called Orphism: the animation arising from the play of simultaneous color contrasts within a work of art.
Sonia Delaunay’s work developed the “language of color contrast.” She was interested early on in decoration and ornamentation, in producing paintings, collages, book bindings, boxes, cushions, garments, including costumes, “just for the pleasure of it. . . .Colour excited me. I didn’t attempt to analyze what I was doing. These were things that came from inside me.” She was also fascinated by text and illustrated work by poets, and produced designs for magazines.*
I find the work of Sonia Delaunay energizing and passionate, earthy and joyous.
One of my favorite works by her can be found at the following:
This scene, “Summer “(designed for” The Four Seasons”) always reminds me of Paul Klee’s wonderful beach scenes. But here it is more peopled, more human and more lively. (By the way, S.D. is sometimes credited with having invented the polka dot!) The stripes and dots of the bathing suits repeated in the beach balls and the sky and clouds set a scene that would be lighter than air if not held down by the sand dunes and the broad stripes of paint white, yellow, green and blue that almost suggest a stage set.
Two other works, which I think act as progressions from the Beach Scene are these;
This is a gouache study for a mural that Delaunay painted with many assistants and was installed at the Palais des Chemins de Fer (The Train Palace) at the 1937 World Exposition in Paris. (It’s approx. 245 meters!).
Sonia Delaunay continued to work until a very advanced age. In her later years she did many tapestries (executed by Olivier in Aubuisson and exhibited at Modern Art Museums, as well as designing fabrics, scarves, tableware and tablecloths. She was given the Grand Prize of the City of Paris and became a member of the Legion of Honor in 1975. She died in 1979.
Last fall some of us on Ragged Cloth read (or reread?) Terry Barrett’s Interpreting Art and Criticising Art. I’d like to invite you to respond to the Delaunay paintings here (or refer to other if you can describe them) using Barrett’s criteria of talking about art as ” influenced by <and> in dialogue with other art. . . . and affected by the culture in which the artist lives <which> affects the culture in which it is shown. ”
Note: I got both my paraphrased and quoted material from Robert and Sonia Delaunay: The triumph of Colour by Hajo Duchting 1994.