Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay born Sophie Stern or Sara Illinichtna Sternnote born on 14 November 1885 in Gradizhsk, Ukraine and died on 5 December 1979 in Paris is a French painter, of Ukrainian origin. Adopted by a maternal uncle Henri Terk , She studied the fine arts relatively little: drawing at Karlsruhe for two years, then in Paris at the Palette Academy in the Montparnasse district. She was naturalized French thanks to a first marriage with Wilhelm Uhde in December 1

After a period of fauve, probably inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, she and her second husband invented a form of painting that Apollinaire defines as the wave of Orphism, which does not correspond to any tendency to re-ennoble Sonia and Robert Delaunay mainly worked together on the search for pure color and simultaneous color movement, a trend that inspired other painters after them, notably Fernand Léger and Jasper Johns.

Increasingly oriented towards abstract art over the years, she creates in 1946 the Salon of new realities only to promote abstraction.

She left behind an abundant work that also includes printed fabrics, artists’ books, haute couture dresses including the famous dress by Nancy Cunard. His first textile work being a cover for his son Charles.

Opinions are divided on the appreciation of his textile work. Michel Seuphor thinks that it may have been too much confined to fashion: “I personally regret that for many years Sonia Delaunay, instead of devoting herself entirely to painting, has dispersed her talent by trying to introduce In fashion, the simultaneous ideas of his painting. “It is he who, by bringing back the essence of Sonia Delaunay’s work to his textile work, has in fact disqualified his painting, as Anne Montfortnote acknowledges. In a more recent assessment, Jacques Damase recalls that the motifs invented on fabrics by Sonia induced a new inspiration in painting: “It is not without importance for the historian that his works are anterior to those of Mondrian,” and That fabrics are still a source of inspiration for a whole generation of young painters3

Always associated with her husband Robert in painting, fashion, or monumental adventures like the fresco destined to the Railway Palace for the International Exhibition of 1 she is often exhibited with him at the Georges National Center of Art and Culture -Pompidou, to whom she has made several donations. While many of the museums in the world have their canvases, most of them have been shared in France between the Grenoble Museum, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, the Center Pompidou, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France .

Although the Stern family is Jewish Sonia never relates to this belonging: “My father was a worker. In Gradjisk, Ukraine, he worked in a nail factory. I have a great deal of intransigence, the horror of greed and meanness … My uncle, my mother’s brother, had opened a milieu of culture for me (…) my father, ‘Bequeathed the honesty. At the age of three, an inner line of life was traced, I never thought of it. “As for Sonia’s Jewishness, most biographies do not mention it. Sonia considered herself above all as French and even more as Parisian “I feel good only in France, and still not everywhere. Above all Ile-de-France, that’s what I love most – Sonia Delaunay, comment collected by Jacques Damase in 19 ”

At the age of five, Sonia was adopted by her uncle Terk who is a lawyer in St. Petersburg at the request of her uncle. Sonia’s mother initially did not accept the complete adoption, Only entrusted to Henri Terk the education of the child from the age of three years. Two years later, definitely adopted by the Terk, Sonia lives in a cultivated environment. She spends her holidays in Finland where the uncle has a house, in Switzerland, in Italy, in Germany

In this environment where it is fashionable to speak French, or German, the child, then the girl, discovers a certain form of luxury, with servants, but also the arts. His uncle has a beautiful collection of paintings that attracts the attention of Sonia. It was his drawing teacher at the St. Petersburg High School who advised his family to send him to study in Karlsruhe. She arrived in Germany in 1903 and studied drawing with Professor Schmidt-Reuter7 for two winters. During her vacation in Finland, she discovers Julius Meier-Graefe’s book on Impressionism “which makes her want to live in the country where her born the Canotiers and the Ball of the mill of the Galette of Auguste Renoir”

When she arrives in Paris in 1 Sonia is barely twenty years old. She moved to a boarding school in the Latin Quarter with four Russian girls. She studied at the Academy de la Palette in Montparnasse, where five neo-classical teachers taught: Charles Cottet, Edmond Aman-Jean, George Desvallières, Lucien Simon and Jacques-Émile Blanche, who corrected one after the other the paintings of the students, which according to Sonia, creates a confusion in the minds of the students

She therefore prefers to deviate from it. She works alone, and she leaves to discover Paul Gauguin, Pierre Bonnard, Vuillard, André Derain who are exhibited in a gallery close to La Madeleine: Bernheim gallery These painters have founded a new style: the fauvism that enthusiasm, But which it wants to surpass. According to Jacques Damase, “Even outside of Fauvism, Sonia belongs, by the color of his first paintings to the species of the great wild beasts. His creative force is instinctive as animal power ”

His first painting Philomène11 (1907) was part of the exhibition Le Fauvisme or the fireproof at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, 1999-2 It is an oil on canvas, 92 × 5 Cm preserved at the National Center of art and culture Georges-Pompidou, Paris12 with strong colors, surrounded by black. The work is classified by Yevgeny Petrovanote in the natural “pre-fauvism” of Russian painting “whose orientations are perhaps even more savage than what one observes in the fawns”

While the wild beasts were denounced by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles at the Salon d’automne of 1 (he is the inventor of the word fauve14), Sonia, she finds that the fauves do not go far enough, in particular Pierre Matisse , Of which it considers that the works are a compromise for bourgeois

Sonia’s fierce period is very important. (1 oil on canvas and wooden support, 46 × 55 cm, painting not located) as well as in the Yellow Nude (1 oil on canvas 65 × 98 cm, preserved in In his unpublished Cahiers, Robert Delaunay says of this brilliant painting: “Coming from the East to the West, it carries within itself this warmth, this characteristic and classical mysticity, and without breaking into the Western contact, on the contrary, is recreated by finding its constructive expression through this friction, amplifies and develops into a transformation in which the elements that compose its art are transformed into a new art, which has its characteristics. The atavistic state the color »

His strength of color allows him to overflow all academic or theoretical teachings by a need incompatible with the formulas, by this anarchic enthusiasm which is transformed later into ordered force

These colors will awaken, later, the dark tendency in which Robert encloses himself with his towers Eiffel (1909-1910) Under the influence of Sonia, it revives in more frank colors (Windows, then the team of Cardiff , Then the circular forms Sun)

During the years 1907-1 Sonia also takes lessons in engraving with the painter Grossman who lives on the Island Saint-Louis and who introduces the German collector and gallerist Wilhelm Uhde. It is in the gallery of Uhde, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs that she will meet later Robert Delaunay

In 1 Sonia has her first solo exhibition at the gallery Uhde Wilhelm Uhde and she decides to make a “friendly wedding” (white wedding) They marry in London on December 5th

From this period she began her first “tapestry-embroidery”, and at the gallery Uhde, she met, besides Robert Delaunay, Pablo Picasso, Derain, and Georges Braque In the moment when, according to Robert, was “… In the midst of Fauvism, Gauguinism, and where exoticism flourished at the Independents, of which Matisse took the banner of French taste by channeling all this Slavic painting which it seasoned with the Parisian literary taste … “, Sonia operates in 1 a break with its Tapestries in the past, which bring, in their expressive means, a delivery with very close perspective

Having divorced her first husband, Sonia married Robert Delaunay on November 15, 1910 to the mayor of the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The couple settled at 3 rue des Grands-Augustins where he kept a workshop until 19 January. Son Charles. The couple lives in a bubbling enthusiasm: the birth of the baby does not prevent them from creating, the child being, according to Sonia, very calm. Robert and she can work freely

During the first years of marriage, the couple live a life far beyond their means, and spends twice as much as their income. Sonia’s aunt gives her a small rent, Robert’s mother, who promised so much, can not do it, for she has no money left. This does not prevent them from receiving many people, poets, painters and in particular Mrs Epstein who makes them know Vassily Kandinsky

In his autobiography, Charles Delaunay writes about this period: “I do not preserve the slightest memory of this workshop … However, I can not imagine how a couple of newlyweds, a newborn , Her housekeeper, and visitors, sometimes very eccentric, who paraded at all hours of the day and night ”

In 1 Sonia realizes her first abstract work with textile. It is a cover for his son Charles: an assemblage of coupons of various bright colors, in the Ukrainian tradition. She plays here with the colors of fabrics as in her painting “Charles at her birth, in January 1 had an Empire bed. I trimmed it with a blanket made of pieces of fabric. Russian peasants do like that. In observing the arrangement of the fragments of cloth, my friends exclaimed: “but it is cubist!” ”

In addition, Sonia continues to play with colors for collages, bindings of applied paper books and fabric waste. She also painted caskets, lampshades and simultaneous veils, while Robert began to apply the Chevreul theory (the simultaneous contrast of colors), to his painting

Apollinaire says of the couple: “When we wake up, the Delaunay speak about painting.” Sonia considers that he did not exaggerate: “We loved ourselves in art as other couples united in faith, Crime, alcohol, political ambition. The passion of painting was our main link »

In spring 1 the Delaunay settled in the valley of Chevreuse. Robert works at the Windows series while doing research on pure painting. He then wrote the text-manifesto La Lumière33 while Sonia painted his first canvases of simultaneous contrasts. In the autumn, Apollinaire presents Blaise Cendrars for which Sonia makes a first painted binding that will serve as a starting point for the first simultaneous book La Prose du Transsibérien and the little Jehanne de France which is presented the following year and which benefits The book is displayed simultaneously in Paris, London, New York, Petrograd, as well as at the first autumn fair in Berlin, where it is accompanied by paintings and simultaneous posters by Sonia “Two meters Of length for a poem. Bright vertical road map that drives the reader’s eye simultaneously into the chromatic dance and music of the words. This is the first book-object. “He illustrates a poem by Blaise Cendrars. The text was composed in a dozen different bodies.

Sonia’s career is now underway. His painting developed in concert with that of Robert. She painted the Electric Prisms (1914), (250 × 250 cm, oil on canvas35), Studies of light, Boulevard Saint-Michel (1913)

The couple also leads a pleasant life. Every Thursday they go to Ball Bullier, Montparnasse. Sonia will make a painting: Le Bal Bullier of 95 × 390 cm in 191 The “beautiful world” mingles with the midinets. This is where Sonia wears her first simultaneous dresses and Robert a costume of the same style designed by his wife Les Delaunay make sensation by dancing the tango. But it is mainly from 1923 that the robes of Sonia will experience an unprecedented infatuation. Bernard Dorival considers that she has been able to raise the arts considered minors to the height of the great art

Guillaume Apollinaire made the Delaunay couple at the Ball Bullier genuine stars. In an article published on 1 January 1914 at the Mercure de France under the title Les Réformateurs du costume, the poet writes: “We must go to Bullier on Thursday and Sunday, Mr and Mrs Robert Delaunay, painters, To effect the reform of costume. The simultaneous Orphism has produced new garments which are not to be despised ”

In August 1 the wife of the director of the French railways trains the Delaunay in Spain. They were then on holiday in Hondarribia. Sonia considers this stay, which will last seven years as a great vacation, a huge breath of air In Madrid they share an apartment with this woman and her children. Robert makes a picture of the nude woman. In 1915-1 the couple settled in Portugal where they lead the American painter Samuel Halpert and the Portuguese Eduardo Vianna then to Vigo in Spain

From this period date posters-poems, the first Zenith marks the advent of the poem painting. Sonia did it on a poem by Cendrars. In Portugal, Sonia also produced Portuguese still lifes and the Market in the Minho where she seeks unity and simplification according to Robert. The Portuguese paintings are presented in 1916 at Sonia Delaunay’s first solo show at the Nya Konstgalleriet Gallery in Stockholm18 Which the artist produced the cover of the catalog This is a kind of self-portrait, with the artist’s name drawn below A reproduction of this cover, (5 × 45 cm) was sold in 2007 in Paris for 6 250 € The original, polychrome stencil with wax on paper, 7 × 7 cm is preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale de France49

The series of dancers in 1917 is a collection of fluid paintings inspired by Sonia’s encounter with Serge de Diaghilev, the creator of the Russian Ballets and the dancer Nijinsky, the year the couple returns to Madrid Sonia, Robert and Serge will admire The dancers of flamenco: “The dances touched me more than Robert. Nijinsky was with us and Diaghilev wanted to work with us. But we were asking ourselves: what spectacle should we go up with the creator of the Russian ballets? “. 1917 is also the year of the end of the Tsarist regime in Russia, and the end of Sonia’s income, the Terk family is ruined.

Their deliberate will to create movement by the contrast of colors predisposed them to turn to the dance and the theatrical ballet Moreover the couple seeks applications to its discoveries in decorative arts

It was from the encounter with Diaghilev that inspiration was born. Diaghilev decides to take over the ballet Cleopatra already present in St. Petersburg in 1908 under the title Night of Egypt Diaghilev likes the use of color as a dramatic element, he proposes to the Delaunay to collaborate with him. But Robert and Sonia want to keep their independence and they limit themselves to the realization of the decors of which Robert makes the model, and the costumes created by Sonia. There are several versions of the drawings of the costumes of Cleopatra by Sonia Delaunay, scattered among private collectors or in Artcurial53: Costume for Cleopatra (watercolor on paper, 57 × 5 cm, private collection worn by the actress Tchenicheva, as well as the costume for Léonide Massine in the role of the favorite slave of Cleopatra (watercolor on Paper, 1 5 × 5 cm, private collection Paris In 1 the revival of the show has been a great success in London The particularity of this ballet is that it is more a lively painting than a ballet. Sail Dance “offers a continuous color movement with the multicolored veils worn by Cleopatra. Designed by Sonia, they are superimposed, removed one to the other N, and deployed to form a screen as a painted backdrop, the color movement must never reach a fixed shape

The theatrical experience of the Delaunay continues with Léonide Massine for which Robert sketches the sets of ballet Football (1918) and later, for the ballet Le Triomphe de Paris (1928-1929). Sonia designs the costumes of the ballet The Four Seasons and those of the Aida by Giuseppe Verdi58 including the famous costume for Amneris worn by the singer Aga Lahowska (watercolor on paper, 1 57 × 39 cm, private collection) But she has other Projects Sonia opens in Madrid Casa Sonia which is very successful. The artist becomes the decorative designer of the Spanish aristocracy In 1 she entirely redo the decoration of the Petit Casino of Madrid and creates the costumes of the first magazine that is presented there in particular the costume in the shape of flower petals for the star Gaby In the same year, Robert and Sonia jointly exhibited their works to the Asociacion de artistas Vascos de Bilbao, which is now the Museu Gustavo de Maetzu y Whitney . In this same city, a fashion show of Sonia’s creations at Majestic Hall is organized

From the years 1 without abandoning the painting that serves as her engine, Sonia puts all the energy of her researches into the costume. Robert and Sonia returned to Paris in 1920 and settled in Paris, boulevard Malesherbes

The couple participates in many artists’ evenings where the dancers wear the costumes of Sonia. In 1923 at La Licorne, 110 rue La Boétie, during the evening of April 29, the Romanian dancer Lizica Codréano (Codréanu in Romanian) notes 7 improvises a dance on the Perpetual Movement of Francis Poulenc. She wears a costume by Sonia The Evening of the Bearded Heart which takes place at the Theater Michel, Rue des Mathurins on 6 July 1923 is animated by a troupe composed of Russian amateurs directed by Iliazd. In front of Jean Cocteau she presented avant-garde theater. The dancer Lizica Codréanu wears a costume by Sonia, who also designed the costumes for the piece by Tristan Tzara: Gas Heart This evening of the Heart with beard, very agitated, ended with a pugilatnote

Heart is a step in the tightening of friendships of what Sonia calls the band to Delaunay composed among others, Tristan Tzara, Georges Auric (who creates the music of the piece), Philippe Soupault, René Crevel, Joseph Delteil Band, whose rallying point was La Closerie des Lilas was always moving together, like a rugby team. “A time friends with the André Breton clan, the band at Delaunay separates from it during the schism between the Dadaists (Tzara ) And the Surrealists (Breton) In his autobiography, Sonia points out that on their return to Paris, the Delaunay were snubbed by former friends, but fortunately supported by Diaghilev who put them forward at a concert, They found their friends, including Fernand Léger, whom Robert had treated as a “bastard” because he had exhibited at the Salon d’Automne a large picture with Discs practically plagiarized on those of the Delaunay

Sonia continues to participate in shows until December 1 when she produced the sets and models of the posters for the ballet of Felix Blaska: Stravinsky Concert Dances But it is especially towards fashion that she will apply the result Of his research in painting. “While everyone agrees that the colors she applied to women’s dresses, cars and posters gave the street its modern face, it is less known than consciously or not, contemporary painting He owes many of his discoveries. “Jasper Johns and other artists will take up the concept of stripes that she invented from 192569. Some of Johns’ works, such as” Unitled-I “, can be likened to Sonia’s printed silk drawings No “Collection-I” reproduced in Jacques Damase’s book on fashion and printed fabrics

The great adventure of the dresses begins when a Silk from Lyon orders Sonia to draw simultaneous fabrics. She makes fifty drawings, with colorful reports and pure geometric shapes. She thinks that it is better to print them herself, which leads her to start production and to open a shop, a sewing workshop, a House of fabric, with windows, advertising leaflets Robert Delaunay writes about these drawings: “She created her harmonies, her colorful rhythms in life even in the way of color poems. It does not copy the old, it invents, in the atmosphere, in the light of the country. It is indeed the rhythm of modern life, its prism, its illumination, the colors of its river ”

On May 24th, 1 Sonia presents at the Claridge Evening where the former Russian Corps of Pages gives a charity ball, a fashion show with costumes depicting a poem by Joseph Delteil The Fashion that Comes. “The appearance of this group raised the applause of the worldly assembly.” But her greatest triumph was the following year, when she set up a simultaneous shop on the Pont Alexandre III with the help of couturiers Jacques Heim for the ” International Exhibition of Decorative Arts of She decorated the shop and models present her models. The next year, a book titled Sonia Delaunay, his paintings, his objects, his simultaneous fabrics, his fashions with a text by André Lhote and the poems De Cendrars, Delteil, Tzara Soupault, who pay tribute to his creative spirit as a painter and decorator. A copy of this book can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York77

Sonia creates dresses matching the cars or the reverse. In 1 it creates a simultaneous Bugatti: the Bugatti Type 3 In 1 itself drives a Citroen B12 that it decorated patterns matching its skirts, dresses and coats And in the years 1 it is the Matra 530 that it Will decorate.

In 1 the effects of the American economic crisis are felt in France. Sonia decides to close her studio and devote herself to painting. This is the year when Robert Delaunay creates the canvas Rythmes sans fin ending in his so-called “inobjective” period. Sonia associates with him in research both collaborate in what Sonia calls the “fight for abstract art. ”

Sonia’s thirst for entrepreneurship hides a false sense of business that will appear after Robert’s death: neither one nor the other, let alone their son Charles, know how to cram money or make a career. They do not know how to sell themselves and do not try to sell themselves, which explains why Sonia had to struggle to have her husband’s painting recognized since 1946 by organizing a retrospective at the Galerie Louis Square

Like Sonia, Robert has always been interested in decoration, and in the covers of works, the most significant of which is the one he did for the first issue of Yvan Goll’s magazine: Surrealism published in 192 Robert worked Concert with Sonia on the advertising posters. It is in this latter domain that the work of the couple already carried in the 1920s when Robert realized Boy, a Byrrh (1 gouache and India ink, 6 × 64 cm), Project poster Dubonnet (1 gouache And Chinese ink 50 × 65 cm), inspired by the graphic artist Cassandre for her Dubonnet poster. At the same time, Sonia realizes the B (ensdorp) Chocolate Poster Project (watercolor, 1 32 × 25 cm) Poster for Zig-Zag, cigarette paper (1 gouache, 27 × 21 cm) In 1 she had already realized A poster project Dubonnet, paper cut and pasted, 5 × 5 cm, National Museum of Modern Art, donation Delaunay 196389

The luminous posters will become a new research topic for the couple as of 1 thanks to the “Mica-tubes” lamps which open great possibilities for the avant-garde artists. In 1 the Delaunay, who have a stand at the “Salon de la Lumiere”, display luminous discs and ribbons which make Jean Cassou say in the Marianne newspaper of October 24, 1935: “From now on artists will be able to write, feel, Think, draw, shout in luminescent tubes “.

The poster project of Sonia for the cigarette paper Zig-Zag is one of the projects of illuminated posters that realizes in the occasion of the contest launched by the Parisian Company of distribution of electricity It proposes others: Project of illuminated poster for the colors Linel (1 gouache, 30 × 5 cm) and Project of poster Mica-tube, a ribbon of light (gouache, 1 21 × 3 cm) It was she who won in 1936 the first Price of the luminous poster of the contest of the Parisian company Up to 1 it produces more than ten

Leon Blum wanted the avant-garde to be present at the International Exhibition of Robert and Sonia on the condition that they work fifty painters unemployed. The gigantic company consists of a 780 m2 painting for the palace of the air, and a composition of 1,772 m2 for the railway palace to which are added bas reliefs of color and a panel of 150 m Gathered in a garage of the door Champerret, the artists lived and worked in common. These include: Jean Bertholle, Léopold Survage, Roger Bissière, Alfred Manessier

For the Railway Palace, Sonia carries out several large mural paintings of 225 square meters each, among which: Far Journeys Sonia has created other large-scale monumental paintings, now missing, including Aircraft Engine, Propeller and Dashboard and she will get the Gold Medal. The monumental paintings are only a Study for Portugal, mural, gouache on paper, 5 × 93 cm, now in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington.

The following year (1938), she realized in colored cement the monumental door of the first Salon of Mural Art, and whose motifs already resembled Kinetic Art

The most revolutionary achievement of the Delaunay is found at the Palais de l’air, built on the Esplanade des Invalides where Robert Delaunay designed a circular footbridge, which makes it possible to be very close to two fighter jets suspended in the middle of chromatic circles Made jointly by Robert and Sonia

The Delaunay’s last joint work was to organize the first abstract art show: Les Réalités Nouvelles at the Galerie Charpentier en 1 with Nelly van Doesburgnote 9, secretary, Fredo Sidès, president and Yvanohé Rambosson