I have led three lives: one for Robert, one for my son and grandsons, a shorter one for myself. I don’t regret not having given myself more attention. I really did not have the time. – Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay was a strong, smart, selfless, successful and inspired woman. Her career spanned 75 years in many areas of expression: graphic and interior design, painting, theater and film, textiles and fashion. She was one of the key designers of the time, influenced by art in her way of thinking fashion. Her textiles and designs were distributed worldwide in department stores and boutiques, promoting her to a place of prominence in the fashion world.
Born in Ukraine, Sonia (born Sarah Ilinitchna Stern) first studied in Germany before moving to Paris in 1905, where she soon met gay German art dealer Wilhelm Uhde, her first husband. Her marriage to Uhde in 1908 allowed her to settle in Paris. Uhde also gave her her first solo show at his gallery and introduced her to the tight-knit community of painting elite in Paris. After this short marriage of convenience she fell in love with French painter Robert Delaunay, in whom she later married and they had a son. Alongside Robert, Sonia explored her fascination with colour and form, taking cues from Fauvism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism.
The two painters dubbed their new particular style Simultanism. This was an approach which focused on form, colour and rhythm to communicate the notion of “simultaneity”. Both Robert and Sonia truly believed that colour could be used in the same way a composer used notes to create harmonies. Later this attitude was seamlessly incorporated into Sonia’s work with textiles, where she used exactly the same principles and philosophies.
From the early 20th century until her death in 1979, Sonia Delaunay painted, designed fabrics and clothing, ran boutiques as well as a textile design company, collaborated with poets, designed costumes for the ballet, theater and film, designed automobiles, created stained glass windows and unique ceramics and was the first living woman to have a retrospective at the Louvre in 1964. She played gender games, spoke several languages, danced the tango and translated Kandinsky. She was a thoroughly intelligent, super modern woman/artist in a man’s world. She was indomitable – a force to be reckoned with, she truly made a priceless contribution to the world treasury of art.
Sonia, the youngest of three children to impoverished Jewish parents in Odessa, established in Paris and destined to conquer the world – was an artist with a unique style, whose works till nowadays remain a vast source of inspiration for many designers and fashion houses.
Sonia died peacefully in her studio in Paris at the age of 94. A monarch to design, female entrepreneurship and making one’s life a piece of art.
A true inspiration.