Sonia Delaunay (November 14, 1885 – December 5, 1979) was a Ukrainian-born French artist, who spent most of her working life in Paris and, with her husband Robert Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colors and geometric shapes. Her work extends to painting, textile design and stage set design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. Her work in modern design included the concepts of geometric abstraction, the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings, and clothing.
Adopted by her mother's brother, Henri Terk and his wife Anna, Delaunay attended a secondary school in St. Petersburg and at 18 was sent to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany. She moved to Paris in 1905 where she enrolled at the Académie de La Palette in Montparnasse. Unhappy with the mode of teaching, which she thought was too critical, she spent less time at the Académie and more time in galleries around Paris. Her own work during this period was strongly influenced by the art she was viewing including the post-impressionist art of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Henri Rousseau and the fauves including Henri Matisse and Derain. During her first year in Paris she met, and in 1908 married, German art gallery owner Wilhelm Uhde. They divorced in 1910 and she married artist, Robert Delaunay. Inspired by a quilt that she made for her son, Delaunay and her husband applied the same cubist process to other objects and paintings. The Delaunays' friend, the poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire, coined the term Orphism to describe the Delaunays' version of cubism in 1913.
In 1924 Delaunay opened a fashion studio together with Jacques Heim, with whom she had a pavilion at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, called Boutique Simultané. She designed costumes for two films and haute couture textiles for Robert Perrier, while participating actively in his artistic salo. After closing her business, Sonia Delaunay returned to painting, but continued to design for Jacques Heim, Metz & Co, Perrier and private clients. By the end of 1934 Sonia was working on designs for the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne. Robert Delaunay died in October 1941. In 1964 Delaunay and her son Charles donated 114 works by Sonia and Robert to the Musée National d'Art Moderne. From 1976 she developed a range of textiles, tableware and jewellery with French company Artcurial, inspired by her work from the 1920s. Her autobiography, Nous irons jusqu'au soleil (We shall go up to the sun) was published in 1978. Sonia Delaunay died on December 5, 1979, in Paris, aged 94.
(Hélice, décoration pour le Palais de l’Air, Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques, Paris)