“He who knows how to appreciate color relationships, the influence of one color on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.” – Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay (1885 – 1979), alongside her husband and fellow artist Robert Delaunay, co-founded the Orphism art movement, an offshoot of the Cubist style that focused on abstraction, light, and color—in contrast to the monochromatic style of traditional Cubism.
Sonia was a painter but began experimenting with textiles as “exercises in color”; her fabrics combined the traditional Russian folk-art of her childhood with the avant-garde style of early 20th-century Paris. She took abstraction of style and color from canvas to fabric, and her daring and oft-photographed garments represented female agency, style, and independence. Delaunay is often remembered for her bold, woolen (and almost certainly uncomfortable) swimsuits—which were really more symbols of color and design than actual functional garments.
She found it essential to take into account the human form when designing fabrics—not just designing fabrics and then shaping them to fit the body afterward. In a 1968 letter, Delaunay lamented a trend of creating garments from Mondrian and Pop Art fabrics: “All [my] works were made for women, and all were constructed in relation to the body. They were not copies of paintings transposed onto women’s bodies…I find all that completely ridiculous.” Her work was so revolutionary and respected that she was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre.
Images from Sotheby’s, Azure Magazine, and Modernarium.