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Sonia Delaunay

By Lisa Thomas

Born in the Ukraine and raised by wealthy relatives in St. Petersburg, Russia, artist Sonia Terk-Delaunay moved to Paris in 1905 to study art at the Academie de la Palette. Delaunay was influenced early in her career by the Post-Impressionist and Fauves artists whose work she saw in the Paris galleries. It was in the gallery of her first husband, Wilhelm Uhde, that she met the Comtesse de Rose, mother of artist Robert Delaunay.  Through the Comtesse, Sonia was introduced to Robert and in 1910, following Sonia’s divorce from Uhde,  the couple would marry. Together with French poet Guillaume Appolinaire, the Delaunays helped found the Orphism movement in 1912. Orphism was an off-shoot of Cubism that prioritized color, using it to bring movement, light and musical qualities to painting. Appolinaire named the movement after the Greek mythological poet and signer Orpheus. The Delaunays worked within the philosophy of Orphism in a sub-style called Simultanism that strove to contrast colors simultaneously. Simultanism was a purely abstract style that created motion and rhythm through overlapping patches of bright color. Sonia Delaunay’s Composition, from 1967 is a very fine example of this style and its reliance on color to create contrasts, dissonance and movement on a flat plane.  Another example is the pochoir from her Poésie de mots, poésie de couleursseries from 1961. For this series, Delaunay created six pochoir prints that were inspired by poems by Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Tzara, Cendrars, Delteil and Soupault.
Delaunay was a multi-disciplinary artist, working with textiles, stage set and furniture design alongside her work on canvas and paper. In 1976, she developed a line of jewelry, tableware and textiles for French company Artcurial. Sonia Delaunay was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre. She was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1975.
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