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Sonia Delaunay at the Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is currently exhibiting the first UK retrospective of female artist Sonia Delaunay, including her vibrant abstract paintings, iconic textiles and clothes that she made over her 60-year career.

One of the pioneers of abstraction and a central figure of the Paris avant-garde, Sonia’s career spanned much of the twentieth century. The dynamic forms and vibrant colours captured the spirirt of modernity, celebrated technology, urban life, travel and dance crazes such as the tango.

Her marriage to artist Robert Delaunay was a remarkable creative partnership, and they jointly developed a distinctive approach to abstraction called simultanism (how colours change when they are placed together and contrasted). Her first use of simultanism aside from in painting was a patchwork quilt she made for their son, Charles. This was the beginning of her extensive creations in the fashion and interior design industries; making everything from lampshades to costumes for ballet dancers.

I particularly liked her use of colours and circles to represent light or dance. The colour and dynamism of simultanism was suited to capturing the remarkable energy of city life. Her ‘Electric Prisms’ series explored the effects of electric lighting – the way a street light can leave a dappled prism of light on the cobbled street below (such as in the image above). The tango craze that swept through Paris in the early 1910s was another symbol of modernity – Sonia even created a simultaneous dress that she would wear on her frequent visits to the Bal Bullier ballroom. This introduced a personal, performative element to her use of abstract forms, establishing a dialogue with the movement of the dancers. Simultanism was becoming a way of life.

LEFT: Examples of Sonia’s fabrics that she made for her own store and in various collaborations with department stores such as Metz & Co in Amsterdam and Liberty, London.

RIGHT: One of Sonia’s large pieces commissioned for the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life in Paris, 1937.

The exhibition is on until 9th AUGUST 2015 – for more information click HERE.

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