Leading Voice of Abstract Art in Europe, Sonia Delaunay, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Author: Rachel Martin
On February 12, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark opened its spring exhibition featuring an important leader of modernism: Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). This exhibition is the biggest presentation of the Russian-French artist’s work in Scandinavia to date, and showcases Delaunay's work across art and design, including paintings, drawings, prints, fabrics, fashion and more.
Born Sarah Elievna Stern in Odessa in 1885, then part of the Russian Empire, her parents gave her up for adoption to her mother’s well-off brother, Henri Terk, in St. Petersburg. She spent her childhood surrounded by art and art books, and also took lessons in French, German and English, and went on European vacations with her family. At the age of 18, she moved to Karlsruhe, Germany to attend art school. A few years later, she moved to Paris, where she primarily developed her artistic career while surrounded by the latest trends in the world center of modern art.
Delaunay briefly explored figurative painting, but above all she was interested in color in abstract compositions. From 1911 to her death in 1979, she created bright works of painting and design. In 1910, Sonia married Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), a fellow painter. Together they worked, exchanging ideas and using their home as a meeting place for avant-garde artists before and after the First World War until Robert’s death in 1941.
Pieces by Sonia and Robert show their close collaboration, featuring rhythmic compositions of coloured planes – a brightly colorful version of Cubism that they coined “Simultané” or Orphism. The term was inspired mainly by the theory of “simultaneous contrasts”: this states that colors affect one another and change character when placed side by side and experienced simultaneously. This movement was key in the transition from Cubism to abstract painting.
Although for years her fame was overshadowed by that of her husband, in the last two decades Sonia Delaunay has come to be recognized as a key figure of the early 20th century Avant-Garde.
Sonia Delaunay did not work solely with painting, but blurred the boundary between “art” and “craft”. Her practice spans painting, textile design, clothing, costumes, advertising, and book design – always made with powerful colors and color contrasts as a central element. Both as an avant-gardist and an entrepreneur, she was a forerunner of contemporary experimental collaborations in art and design. Sonia Delaunay was among the pioneers in developing and disseminating abstract art in the 1910s.
A special section in the Louisiana exhibition focuses on Delaunay’s textile designs and her 30-year partnership with the prestigious Dutch department store Metz & Co in Amsterdam. From painted sketches to finished fabrics, one can see the wide range of her work, which totalled 200 designs.
Designs for theater costumes are also showcased: Delaunay created costumes and “poem-dresses” in collaboration with Tristan Tzara, a central figure in the Dada movement who became a close friend. The exhibition also takes a look at Delaunay’s avid engagement in, and connections to, the avant-garde poetry of her day. She saw a close link between visual and verbal abstraction.
The exhibition spans the artist's production from her figurative works of the 1910s through her avant garde explorations until the 1970s. This underlines the huge range of Sonia Delaunay's talent and her various use of media. Along with being the largest exhibition to date in Scandinavia of the artist’s works, it is the first solo presentation in the region in 15 years since an exhibition at Skissernas Museum – Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art in 2007.
You can read more about the exhibition, including interactive opportunities as well as upcoming events, at the following link: https://louisiana.dk/en/exhibition/sonia-delaunay/
Where: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark When: 12 February - 12 June 2022
Tuesday - Friday 11.00 - 22.00 Saturday and Sunday 11.00 - 18.00 Monday closed
Tickets: Online reservation recommended:
Adult 18+ DKK 145
Children / young adults under 18 free
Student DKK 125
Member’s Guest DKK 120
Must be accompanied by a Louisiana Member