Sonia Delaunay was born on 14 November 1885, 132 years ago. One of the world's most captivating and creative minds, Delaunay was a prolific artist who worked between fine art, textiles and fashion. To celebrate her day of birth, we look into our archives and revisit her work through the inquisitive eye of Maggie Norden...
Movement is at the core of Sonia Delaunay’s life. She never paused – embracing artistic cross-pollination, innovating in the fields of fashion, interior design, textiles, costume and advertising. She was a collaborator, someone who enjoyed networking – a fiercely modern woman connecting back and forth amongst Europe’s avant-garde creative community.
Sonia was born to a Jewish family in Odessa, Ukraine in 1885, moving aged five to live with her uncle and aunt in an intellectually rich St Petersburg. She was educated across Europe; in Germany she studied with Schoenberg, and in Paris she met Picasso and Braque.
At 25, she married artist Robert Delaunay with whom she spent a lifetime practising simultané, an aesthetic adventure rejoicing in the moving principle of art: the light and ‘the motion of colour’. They were a power couple; colour was their language of love, inspiring and informing their work, always in parallel – never in competition. Robert died in 1941. 'He was like a whirlwind... his attitude was more scientific than mine... he would search for justification of theories,' recalled Sonia.
Sonia’s designs contain a calculation that seems more spontaneous. Italian painter Gino Severini was so enamoured with her geometrization of shapes in the modernist style, he was said to cable every detail to the Futurists. When Sonia lectured at The Sorbonne in 1927, she offered a context for her way of seeing colour contrasts: 'There was no gap between my painting and my so-called decorative art, enjoying the application of the same research.'
You can read this article in full in Selvedge issue 65.