Our Artists

Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay was a pioneer of geometricalabstraction and had a major influence on the evolution of art in the 20th Century. Refusing the distinction between fine arts and decorative arts, she added a great deal to these disciplines, constantly adding to her work with experiments in colour and movement. Her energy and vivacity can be seen in her paintings and in her decorative art work.


At the origins of abstract art

Sonia Delaunay studied painting in Karlsruhe, where she was influenced by the early German expressionists. She moved to Paris in 1906, where she discovered the works of Van Gogh, Gauguin and the Fauves. In 1907, she met Robert Delaunay. Sharing the same vision of painting, they committed themselves to abstract art and founded orphism, a movement characterised by the use of vivid colours and geometrical shapes. Basing their work on Chevreul’s Law of simultaneous contrast between colours, their main interest lay in the relationships between colours. Sonia Delaunay’s first abstract painting, Simultaneous contrasts, was finished in 1912. A year later, she painted The Bullier Ball which demonstrated her interest in the representation of light and movement.

Sonia Delaunay and the decorative arts

From 1911, Sonia applied the principles she had developed with her husband to designing fabrics with geometrical patterns and contrasting colours. In 1913, at the first Autumn Show in Berlin, where she exhibited twenty paintings, she also presented a number of items of furniture and decoration which prefigured the future creations of the Bauhaus studios. From 1915 to 1920, Sonia lived in Portugal, then in Spain, where she became increasingly interested in fashion. She designed a large number of fabrics and opened several shops. During this period, she also designed sets and costumes Serge Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet company. She returned to France and, in 1925, took part in the International Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts Exhibition in Paris.

World fame

For the Paris World Fair in 1937, Sonia and Robert decorated the Rail and Air Pavilions. Sonia produced a large fresco, Portugal, for the occasion, for which she was awarded a gold medal. On Robert’s death in 1941, Sonia moved to Grasse, where she painted an important series of gouaches, Rhythms, Coloured rhythms and Colour rhythms. She returned to Paris in 1945, where she took part in a large number of exhibitions and helped to found the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1947. Her works and those of her husband were shown in the First Masters of Abstract Art exhibition in 1949. Sonia continued to explore every branch of the decorative arts: tapestry, illustrations, stained glass, mosaics, rugs, costumes, etc., and exhibited her work worldwide. She died in 1979, known all over the world.


Contrastes simultanés (Simultaneous contrasts), 1912
La Bal Bullier,
(The Bullier Ball)1913
La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France
, (Prose by the Trans-Siberian and little Jehanne de France) 1913 (poem by Blaise Cendrars illustrated by Sonia Delaunay)
Prismes électriques, (Electric prisms)1914
Chanteurs de flamenco, (Flamenco singers)1915
Danseuse, (Dancer) 1916
Marché au Minho, (Minho market) 1916
Rythme, (Rhythm) 1938
Rythme coloré, (Coloured rhythm) 1952
Composition, 1955
Rythme couleur, (Colour rhythm) 1958
Triptyque, (Triptych) 1963

Useful links

Sonia Delaunay in the ADAGP image bank
Press pack for the Robert and Sonia Delaunay exhibition  
in 2003-2004 at the Pompidou Centre, Paris
Futurism, rayonism, orphism: a Pompidou Centre teaching pack


Nationality(ies) : French, Russian
Born on : 14/11/1885
Died on : 05/12/1979
Profile : Ceramist, Set designer, Fabric designer , Designer, Illustrator, Painter
Theme(s) covered : Music - Dance, Travel, Colors and materials