Sonia Delaunay

Born 1885. Died 1979.
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Sonia Delaunay Biography

French Ukrainian artist Sonia Delaunay was a leading figure of the Orphism movement in the early decades of the twentieth century. Like many women artists whose works were overshadowed by those of their artist husbands, Delaunay’s career has often been discussed in conjunction with the work of her partner, Robert Delaunay; however, Sonia’s contribution to Modernism was substantial in its own right, and she significantly pushed forward the experimentation of the European avant-garde.

Born Sarah Élievna Stern in 1885 in Odessa, Ukraine, Sonia Delaunay was initially raised by her poor Jewish family until she was sent to live with her Uncle, Henri Terk, in St. Petersburg at the age of five. She studied drawing at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts in Germany, and eventually moved to Paris in 1906. She was briefly married to dealer Wilhelm Uhde, which provided her with French citizenship, though shortly thereafter she left Uhde for painter Robert Delaunay. Together the pair developed Orphism, a synthesis of the saturated colors of Fauvism, the chromatic juxtapositions and experimentation of Post Impressionism, and the truncated planes and forms of Cubism. Sonia applied Orphist aesthetics to the materials of everyday life, including textiles, wallpaper, furniture, clothing, stage sets, interior design and quotidian ephemera. She opposed the delineation between the fine arts and the “minor arts”; she famously lived amongst these objects, surrounding herself with Orphism, and living Modernist art.

Delaunay was the first living female artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre in 1964. She was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1975, a title her husband never received. Her prolific career provided a wide variety of works which continue to captivate collectors; her 1916 Marché au Minho sold for $3.9 million in 2002. Her works can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and many other major institutions.

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Artist Image: 2014 Evelyn Hofer