13.11.1885, Gradizhsk, Poltava Province – 05.12.1979, Paris
Painter, applied artist
The daughter of a factory manager, Sonia Delaunay was brought up in the family of her uncle, Petersburg lawyer Genrikh Terk. In 1903-1904 she studied under the artist Ludwig Schmidt-Reutler in Karlsruhe. Settling in Paris in 1905, she studied at La Palette academy. In 1909 she married Robert Delaunay. In 1912-1913, under the influence of Fauvism and Cubism, they both abandoned figurative art and experimented with rhythm and the breakdown of colour into its spectral components. Guillaume Apollinaire called this branch of abstract art Orphism. In 1913 Sonia Delaunay illustrated Blaise Cendrars' poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France. She worked a great deal in the sphere of applied art, producing designs for clothes, interiors and fabrics. Her artistic discoveries played a part in the emergence of Art Deco. In 1913 she exhibited her pictures at the Salon des Independants.
In 1918 Delaunay worked with Diaghilev's company, making the costumes for the ballet Cleopatra. Together with Robert Delaunay, she founded the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. For the Paris International Exhibition of 1937 they painted a giant panel 235 metres long. In the post-war years her organisational and creative work links in with the new flourishing of abstract art.
In 1949, she organised an exhibition in Paris in memory of her husband, entitled The First Masters of Abstract Art. She was the first woman to have an exhibition at the Louvre (1964). In 1967-1968 her exhibition moved to Paris's Musée National d'Art Moderne, and in 1975-1976, for the artist's 90th birthday, a retrospective was organised at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
She became a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 1975. She won a gold medal for her role in designing the interior of the French pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937. F.B.