Sonja Delaunay



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Sonia Delaunay was born Sarah Stern in Gradischsk in the Russian Empire, which is now part of Ukraine. She was the youngest child of a poor Jewish couple. At the age of five, she was adopted by her mother’s brother, Henri Terk, who worked as a lawyer in St Petersburg, and renamed Sonia Terk. This gave her the opportunity to grow up in an environment characterised by music and art and to learn several languages. After studying in Saint Petersburg and at several German art academies, including the Karlsruhe Art Academy, Sonia Terk came to Paris in 1904, where she married the art dealer Wilhelm Uhde in a marriage of convenience in 1908 in order to escape her family’s supervision, which he, “pas trop de goût pour les femmes”, was also able to offer her. Soon afterwards, she fell in love with the painter Robert Delaunay, whom she married in November 1910 after divorce proceedings due to Uhde’s fictitious adultery; their son Charles was born in January 1911.

Her artistic role models included Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

after her arrival in Paris, she became one of the most experimental artists in Paris. In 1913, she worked closely with the Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars, with whom she developed the idea of Simultanéism. The first Simultan book entitled Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France, with which she was represented at the First German Autumn Salon, is an important testimony to this cross-genre collaboration, where she also exhibited four paintings and twenty book covers.

From 1912, she and her husband Robert Delaunay developed the so-called Orphism. This is a variant of abstract painting based on Cubism, in which mainly circular shapes with simultaneous contrasts in bright colours were created on the basis of the colour system of the chemist Eugène Chevreul. The aim of Orphism was to counter pure music with pure painting. Due to her significant contributions to the development of abstract painting (especially Geometric Abstraction), she is still regarded today not only as one of the first female representatives, but also as an important pioneer of this new art movement. Like Ida Gerhardi, but in the completely new abstract direction, she painted pictures of the Bal Bullier dance hall.

During the First World War from 1914 to 1918, Sonia Delaunay spent time in Spain and Portugal, from 1915 in the seaside resort of Vila do Conde. There, the Delaunays became friends with the Portuguese painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso.

After her return to France, she remained more faithful to the abstract style than her husband, who died in 1941. In 1942, she worked with Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp in the south of France. Sonia Delaunay’s artistic ideas were later also used in her designer works for theatre decoration and costumes. In 1968, for example, she decorated the ballet Danses Concertantes by the Russian composer Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky. Sonia Delaunay-Terk also created fabric designs, for example for the French actor and author Jean Poiret. In 1975, she was awarded membership of the French Legion of Honour. In 1976, she bequeathed her entire graphic oeuvre to the Centre Georges Pompidou. Sonia Delaunay-