Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Inktober Day 7: Sonia Delaunay

By the time young Sonia Delaunay arrived in Paris from St. Petersburg in 1905 she was already obsessed with color and she would remain so for the rest of her life. Her brief study of classical art in Montparnasse only encouraged her to break the rules, and it was then that she made the leap to Fauvism.

Self Portrait, painted on the back of another of her portraits, Jeune finlandaise (Young Finnish Girl) by Sonia Delaunay, 1906. (image via)

In her early career before the completely abstract art and fashion design for which she is known, she was influenced by post-Impressionists like van Gogh, Rousseau and Gauguin and Fauvists like Matisse, Bonnard and Derain (then at the cutting edge of art). She was already using the intense and attractive color palette that would influence the rest of her career. 

She met a fellow Fauvist painter named Robert Delaunay in 1909 and married him in 1910. So similar were their styles that it's sometimes impossible to tell them apart. They collaborated frequently and chased the same avant-garde theories their entire lives. Our love was united in art," wrote Sonia, "as other couples are united in faith, crime, alcohol, political ambition. The passion of painting was our main link."


Sleeping Girl, by Sonia Delaunay, 1907. (image via).
Left: Portrait of Charles de Rochefort, by Sonia Delaunay, 1908 (image via). Right: Portrait of Tchouiko, by Sonia Delaunay, 1908. Guache on paper, 55 x 46 cm. (image via).

Eventually she grew frustrated that the Fauvists did not go far enough; she considered the work of Matisse to be but a compromise to the tastes of the bourgeoisie. 


Yellow Nude by Sonia Delaunay, 1908. Courtesy Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes © Pracusa (image via). This was painted toward the end of Delaunay's Fauvist period as she was growing frustrated that Fauvism didn't go far enough. Robert Delaunay wrote in his journal, “Coming from the East [i.e. Russia] to the West, it carries within itself this warmth, this classic mysticism, and instead of becoming subsumed by the West it finds its constructive expression through this friction, which amplifies the very elements of the art into a new art. After lying dormant, color has re-emerged." [paraphrased by me from a very bad translation]. Prostitutes were a common subject for the Fauvists and Cubists, but Delaunay's subject doesn't seem to be trying to catch anyone's attention or to be in any way performative. She is definitely judging the viewer. One critic wrote that Delaunay's prostitute wasn't the subject of the male gaze like in the paintings of her male peers, in that she doesn't bother looking at the viewer and her elbow closes her off, giving her some agency. I disagree, to me it looks like Delaunay is clearly more interested in portraying the interplay of color over her body than in portraying the subject herself; it's almost like looking at a tiger in a zoo who is covered in beautiful stripes but who doens't care a whit about its stripes and is just waiting for you to leave.  

After the Delaunays had a son in 1911, Sonia made him a baby blanked from scraps of cloth as was Ukranian tradition. She'd been born in the Ukraine but had moved to St. Petersburg at age five when her wealthy aunt and uncle adopted her. When her avant-garde friends saw it they exclaimed, "but it is cubist!" It was her first venture into fabric arts, which would later define her career. She began experimenting with collage to create similar effects.  

Left: Simultaneous Solar Prism by Sonia Delaunay, 1914. Collage (image via). Right: Flamenco Dancer, by Sonia Delaunay, watercolor, 1916 (image via).

This is when Sonia and Robert together developed the most important concept of their careers: simultaneous art (or simultanéisme, as the Delaunays called it). 

Simultaneous color theory had been developed independently by Goethe (yes, the author of Faust) and a chemist named Chevreul in the 1830s. Chevreul showed that colored circles appeared more or less intense (even though they were the same color) depending on which colors were surrounding the circle. He'd been hired by a tapestry company (Gobelins, who a century later would produce tapestries by Delaunay) to investigate why their threads kept suddenly fading, and he found they weren't fading at all, but simply placed next to colors that made them appear duller. This concept is called "simultaneous contrast." 

Goethe, meanwhile, took Isaac Newton's explanations of color as a physical phenomenon (i.e. light refractions) and demonstrated that a major component of the way humans experience color is due to processing and interpretation of the human brain, not to any independent physical quality of the color itself. He also noticed simultaneous contrast and pointed out that it was perceptual, not physical. Goethe defined complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel which, combined as light, make white; combined as paint they make dark brown). He noticed how, placed side by side, they seem to vibrate and each to appear more intense. This isn't due to the colors themselves but to the human perception. The retina becomes fatigued and the brain processes the fatigue as a visual sensation. Goethe, being a poet, investigated the universal emotions produced by colors and how that was both a product of the human brain and an important component of what it feels like to see as a human being. 

While all artists of course use color theory on some level, certain artists were especially interested. Among them was J.M.W. Turner, who focused on Goethe's emotional theories of color, as well as the use of small amounts of complementary colors to increase the sensation of luminosity. But it wasnt until the Impressionists that serious attention was turned to color theory. Monet capitalized on Goethe's characterizations of the gestalt qualities of certain colors as "warm" or "cool," allowing him and othe Impressionists to revolutionize the practice of shading by using blue instead of black, allowing the coolness to stand in for value. In most Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings you see contrasting color with warm yellows and oranges representing warm sunny light and cool blues and purples representing cool shadow, while the spaces between the brushstrokes reveal hints of complementary colors that make the main colors lively and complex. 

But why the sudden interest in a century-old theory? It was largely the invention of the camera and popularization of photography that drove it. The photograph could replicate realistic imagery as people saw it, which had formerly been the sole job of the artist. What, then, was the new job of the artist? To notice in what ways humans see that cameras don't-- that is, to work with the experience of seeing. The Pointillists explored the physical sensations of sight while other modernists explored the more emotional side of seeing. They payed attention to the effects of certain shapes, rhythms and colors on the subconscious and used them to create an experience that was more about seeing and feeling than about subject-matter. For the later modernists, the peculiar visual sensation of seeing a red circle intersected by a pattern, for instance, was itself an acceptable subject for a painting.

The Delaunays went a step further than simultaneous color theory and incorporated patterns which, placed side by side, set each other off and amounted to a visual reaction that was distinct from the sum of its parts. Sonia believed that "simultanéisme" could portray the essence of movement because it caused to eye to do something. This was a departure from artists like the Italian Futurists who tried to capture a sequence of movements in a single image. Delaunay was instead trying to create images that seemed to move visually, or that created the emotional sensation of movement. 

Apollinaire (the poet) coined the term Orphism to apply to the simultaneous paintings of Sonia and Robert. Orphism as a movement was short-lived but it introduced pure color into cubism and influenced the Italian Futurists and German Expressionists as well as Marc Chagall and Vassily Kandinsky. A Russian who visited the Delaunays in 1912 delivered a series of lectures on the simultaneous which spread the idea to St. petersburg. The Delaunays themselves would remain devoted to exploring the nuances of orphism and simultanéisme their entire lives. 


Le Bal Bullier, by Sonia Delaunay, 1912-13. Oil on canvas, 50.2 x 73 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Musée d’Art Moderne. (image via). The Bullier was a popular dance hall in Paris where the tango and foxtrot were introduced to the city. The Delaunays went every Thursday and made a splash dancing the tango while wearing each her simultaneous clothes. Many other avant-garde artists frequented Bullier and word began to spread about her fashion design. Their friend Apollinaire wrote a notice in the newspaper urging people to go on Thursdays to see them. This piece perfectly illustrates how Delaunay believed simultaneous color and broken rhythmic pattern could create a sensation of movement. The contrasting color blocks of the figures are set against color blocks in the background that are the same size and contrast, giving the eye no visual rest and pusing the eye to keep continuously moving (like a dancer, obviously).


Le Bal Bullier installed in a gallery (the Tate Modern in 2015, image via). I find it helpful to see what paintings look like in real life.


An abstract painting by Sonia Delaunay, c. 1920s, I'm guessing. (image via). I cannot find any information about this piece but I like it. Sort of a mix between the "orphism" abstract paintings and the fabric design sketches.


"Beauty refuses to submit to the constraint of meaning or description." -Sonia Delaunay


Left: Rythme Coloré (Colored Rhythm), by Sonia Delaunay, 1946. © L & M SERVICES B.V. The Hague 20100623. Photo: © private collection (image via). Right: Prisms Eléctriques (Electric Prisms), 1914 Collection of Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (image via). Prisms Eléctriques was painted early in the Delaunay's investigations into Orphism, after Sonia and Robert were out walking one night and saw the newly installed electric street lamps on a boulevard in Paris. They went home and each tried to capture the ephemeral effects of the electric glow and the scattered shadows on the sidewalk. The piece on the left, Colored Rhythm, is a prettier riff on an important piece she did for a much later group exhibition in 1938 called Rhythm. Groups of circles are sliced and their halves are staggered, syncopated, along a central axis. Around that time Delaunay explored her growing interest in visual rhythm, its flow and break, as part of simultanéisme. Like many abstract artists including Kandinsky, Delaunay often spoke about her work in terms of music.

In addition to color and pattern Delaunay interpreted simultanéisme conceptually and combined different creative genres to create something new that was distinct from the sum of its parts. For instance she combined poetry and painting to create a simultaneous book about a train ride that was not an illustrated poem but a juxtaposition of color and text that was meant to work together visually to create a physical experience of reading that mimicked riding on a train. She also combined poetry with fashion, creating "dress poems" where the form of the dress was part of the poem's meaning. In her graphic design she placed individual colored letters inside blocks of other colors, changed their size and placement around the image, and used this simultaneous visual experience to influence the mood that the words created in the viewer. This is still an important basic concept in modern graphic design. 

Delaunay, while grasping the complexity of the theories and their critical implications, seemed to work intuitively, resulting in imagery that operates on simultaneous principles but is also fun and beautiful. "For me," she wrote, "the abstract and the sensual should come together. Breaking away from the descriptive line did not mean becoming sterile." About Robert, she wrote, "In [him] I found a poet. A poet who wrote not with words but with colours."


La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, 1913, a collaborative book project by Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars (the pen name for Frédéric Louis Sauser) (image via). This looks like a pamphlet but it's a short book that unfolds accordion-style. It's a poem that recalls Cendrars's experience as a young boy riding on the Transsiberian Express with a French prostitute named Jeanne, watching the landscapes fly by while daydreaming about tropical places and ruminating about the Paris of his childhood that he was leaving behind. The text, instead of black, is printed in multi-colored stanzas that are meant to play off Delaunay's paintings. The paintings and color blocks, likewise, are meant to reflect the mood of each stanza. The long zig-zag binding and alternating placement of the stanzas on the right and left sides of the column were meant to mimic the train and its endless hypnotic movement, while Delaunay's continuous paintings along one edge are its "window."  It was considered a "simultaneous book," meaning that neither illustration nor poem stood alone but were two united visual media. They did a run of 50, with Delaunay using a stencil to hand-watercolor each book alike. All 50 books, if unfolded and placed end to end, would reach to the top of the Eiffel Tower (as their publicity promised). The book made a big impression on the avant-garde art world at the time; the physical experience of a painting/book that you interact with that morphs into something with such large, bright presence was an important contribution to artist books (a medium which has been a part of every art movement). The author, Blaise Cendrars, who considered himself a simultaneous poet, wrote in Der Sturm, "Literature is a part of life. It is not something 'special.' All of life is nothing but a poem, a movement… Here is what I wanted to say. I have a fever. And this is why I love the painting of the Delaunays, full of sun, of heat, of violence. Mme Delaunay has made such a beautiful book of colors that my poem is more saturated with light than is my life. That’s what makes me happy."


Delaunay's simultaneous costume designs for Tristan Tzara's play The Gas-Operated Heart, 1923 (image via). These costumes were directly copied and worn onstage by David Bowie on SNL in 1979 while singing The Man Who Sold The World. He wore the stiff "suit" on the left and his gangly arms poked out at the elbow and spun around in an absurd little dance. Tzara's original play was a Dadaist satire of conventional drama; it has three very short acts punctuated by songs and bizarre ballets. It's written using conventional dramatic elements that seem to have been chopped up in little pieces and rearranged so they make no sense, with dialogue made of odd bits of idioms and a vague sense of romantic love. The third act's script is just doodles of pierced hearts. Tzara considered his own play a "hoax" that only "industrialized imbiciles" could enjoy so long as they believed in the concept of "a man of genius," a notion that Tzara wanted to lampoon. According to historians the play was actually quite good as a Dadaist piece. Delaunay's boxy cardboard costumes limited the actor's movement and emphasized how two-dimenional the characters were (they were all named after body parts like Ear and Nose), helping the audience understand what Tzara was trying to say. However the 1923 production is most famous for the riot that broke out during its performance. What had happened was, the Dadaist movement was starting to split up. On one side were Tzara and a long list of famous avant-garde artists, musicians and writers (Erik Satie, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, and Hans Arp among them), who were completely committed to absurdist nihilism (Cocteau nicknamed them "Le Suicide-Club" because he didn't see that attitude leading anywhere but ultimately burning itself out). On the other side was the influential artist and critic André Breton and his fellow artists who supported Dada's lampooning of the art establishment and bourgeois conventions, but felt complete antagonistic nihilism was too far; they needed to believe in something (they would soon go on to formally establish the Surrealist movement for this reason). So Breton hosted a Congress for the Determination and Defense of the Modern Spirit (yes really) and Tzara showed up just to make fun of it. He wrote a manifesto of Dada against Breton's Dada and many artists signed; feelings were hurt and bridges were burned. The next year Tzara organized a Dada exhibition of art, plays, music and poetry readings featuring artists who'd signed his manifesto. It was a packed house, full of artists, rubber-neckers who wanted to see the drama unfold between rival factions, and adventurous normal people who just wanted to gawk at weird art. While The Gas Heart was in progress, Andre Breton and his artist buddies showed up and went berzerk. Apparently Breton had heard that Tzara had said something derogatory about Picasso and that set him off (Tzara had said similar things about other artists including Duchamp and no one had taken offense, including Duchamp). They stormed the stage and attacked the actors, who couldn't run away or fight back because of Delaunay's boxy costumes. Then they completely trashed the theater and ripped the seats out, and at that point the audience counter-attacked. Tzara called the police and the brawl moved into the streets (still just among the avant-garde artists). Several poets were injured. After the incident Delaunay, like Edna from The Incredibles, never designed in cardboard again. The Dada movement fizzled almost immediately thereafter. Tzara's faction had distilled Dada into complete and perfect nihilism, and once they'd done that, no one could see the point of continuing.


The Delaunays moved to sunny Portugul in 1915 and lived on an allowance from Sonia's aunt and the rental income from some real estate in St. Petersburg, but the Russian Revolution of 1917 suddenly ruined the Terk family financially. Sonia, who had always been interested in the commercial and applied arts, turned her attention more seriously to income-generating creative endeavors. 

They moved to Madrid because Sonia felt they could earn a better living there commercially. She organized an interior design and simultaneous jewelry boutique called Casa Sonia in Madrid, but it never actually opened officially. Still, it won her valuable contacts in high society and she was hired to design interiors around the Madrid.

While in Madrid the Delaunays became close friends with the director of the Ballets Russes and were hired to design sets (Robert) and costumes (Sonia) for their productions, and later other ballets, plays and operas.

One of several costumes designed by Delaunay for the the 1918 London revival of the Ballets Russes's Cleopatra, 1909. Robert Delauany designed the production's sets. Her sketch, left; the costume in a museum, middle; the dancer in the role, right. I don't have sources for any of these images; they all came uncredited from Pinterest. Delaunay is one of a long list of avant-garde superstars who designed costumes or sets for various Ballets Russes productions in 1920s Europe. Based on Cleopatra's success Sonia Delaunay secured several more commissions for large-scale productions, including the Orientalist opera Aïda in Barcelona. In the ballet, two young lovers meet up in a temple in ancient Egypt. Then Cleopatra visits the temple (making a dramatic entrance in a sarcophagus and being sensuously unwrapped from mummy-like layers of multicolored veils; Delaunay used the unfolding of the colors to great effect) and the young man falls instantly way more in love with Cleopatra than the girl he came to meet. He pleads with Cleopatra to let him be with her, and she finally agrees to spend one night with him, only on the condition that he kill himself with poison the following morning (that's a hell of a way to do a one-night stand; no walks of shame for her). The girl who he'd originally met, who was there the entire time, begs him not to, then leaves. She comes back to the temple the next morning to find his poisoned corpse. O, tragedy! That might be the worst way I've ever heard of getting dumped, but it sounds like she dodged a bullet in the end. Imagine being married to such a horny idiot. Anyway the ballet was famous for its sensuality. The dancing was incredibly sexy and the original costumes from the 1909 run appeared to have lots of bare flesh (they were really skin-colored jersy inserts), which was really exciting in Edwardian times. It sparked a craze for sexy Egyptian stuff (think Theda Bara and silent films). All of those clothes and sets caught on fire during a tour of Latin America, so the Delaunays were hired to re-design something new that would still excite people a decade after the original opening. Sonia's designs were less Ziegfield Follies, more bold art deco modern. Her costumes with Robert's sets were a modern explosion of color and pattern. Delaunay's costume designs would go on to strongly influence later designers like Pierre Cardin in his mod space-age collections.

Sonia later recalled Madrid as "a breath of fresh air, a five year vacation" but the Delaunays soon became homesick for Paris. Their artistic careers had grown stagnant in Madrid, meanwhile there was a exciting Surrealism movement underway in Paris. Sonia later wrote that she considered herself French more than anything else; she was only happy in France, and above all in Paris. They moved back in 1921.


Projet de salle à manger des Delaunay, boulevard Malherbes, by Sonia Delaunay, 1924. (image via). When the Delaunays moved back to Paris in 1921 they decorated their apartment completely using Dadaist and modernist concepts. Their living example of avant-garde art being integrated into all aspects of daily life was a core value of the Dadaists (as well as Bauhaus and other modernist movements) and won them huge resepct among the cutting edge. The Delaunays invited visiting artists to contribute to the decor, including Man Ray, Hans Arp, and Marc Chagall. Their apartment's reputation also helped them secure interior design commissions around Paris.


Sonia or Robert Delaunay (or both), 1921-22, published in Der Sturm, Volume 13, Number 3, 5 March 1922. (image via). This looks so modern to me. It would look good, even edgy, in every single decade since it was made.

Sonia began selling scarves in Paris that used her painting motifs, which proved to be very popular. So she reapproached her patchwork simultaneous dress designs from the old days of the Bal Bullier and began making elegant simultaneous "dress-poems." Her attention was soon turned nearly full time to fashion design.

Only 20 or 30 years prior, fine art was strictly regimented in terms of most to least respected genres; a history painter, for instance,  might be concerned about the impact to his career if he exhibited a series of flower paintings. Yet Sonia Delaunay felt zero compuction about jumping back and forth from serious experimentation in abstract painting and performance, to decorating automobiles and designing flyers, and then back to painting, subjecting each endeavor to the same experimentation with the same concepts and thus uniting them. And it worked for her; she gained both commercial renown and avant-garde respect. Her commercial art was of course not without its detractors. Some critics lamented that her formidable talent was diverted from her worthy painting endeavors to something like fashion design; but as criticism goes, that's not too bad.

Left: a design for some fabric (image via). Middle: two models dressed in Delaunay's designs (image via). Right: Left: Design B53 (detail) for silk fabric, 1924 (image via). The suits were knitted (that was normal back then) and the robes were probably printed silks, also designed by Delaunay. She often designed with draping silks, but also incorporated a wide variety of textures and materials like embroidered wools and colored furs. In 1923 a US fabric manufacturer commissioned Delaunay to design some fabric prints for them, which was a major turning point in her career. She ended up setting up her own print shop and boutique in 1924 called The Atelier Simultané where she could control the quality of printed fabrics (mostly silks) and sell her own designs. Visitors could see the modern paintings covering the walls in the Atalier and understand better what Delaunay was trying to say with the idea of "cubist dresses" or "simultaneous dresses." The small runs of high quality fabrics and the dresses she made from it gained enormous popularity in Parisian high society, and the internatinally. Delaunay was invited to lecture at the Sorbonne in 1927 about the influence of painting on fashion.  

According to an article from the early 1920s, Delaunay was one in a long parade of "reform" clothing designers since Amelia Bloomer, followed by the unpopular "health dresses" of Germany and various others, but what set Delaunay apart was that her clothes were actually attractive. Apparently the stereotype we still have of "artist clothes" already existed back then: huge chunky jewelry, long flowing robes of odd natural materials, and unflattering silhouette. Delaunay had "an eye for beauty," in the writer's opinion, which made her "cubist dresses" much more relevant. "You know," concluded the writer-- and I'm paraphrasing-- "this idea of mixing art and fashion is weird but it makes sense. We should do more of this."

Delaunay preferred a natural (loosely fitting) 1920s silhouette as a base for her dresses. She hoped that by creating interest with the materials, textures and colors instead of silhette, clothing pieces could endure longer. It was a "slow fashion" idea in an era when silhouette had careened dramatically from one extreme to another through the previous three decades, from perky and wasp-waisted with enormous puffed sleeves, to statuesque S-curves, to calf-length drop-waisted shift dresses for boyish figures. We always read about how exciting the changes in fashions were at the time, but apparently there were also people back then who were sick of investing endless time and money in clothes only to have the ideal completely reverse itself in five years. Was Delaunay successful in slowing the race of fashion? Maybe. Her clothes do still look like 1920s pieces but they are wearable (in theory) today. They'd be ridiculously unflattering on me personally, but on a fashion model or singer they'd still look like they belong in the modern world. I would love to wear any of the fabric prints she designed, and could do so even at an office without looking odd. In fact the popular rainbow- hued watercolor theme of the Chanel Spring/Summer 2014 show (beginning around the 12:00 minute mark) is very reminiscent of Delaunay's work including her simultaneous juxtaposition of pattern.

Left: Coat made for Gloria Swanson 1923-24. Wool embroidery on wool. Private collection © Pracusa (image via). Right: a 1925 dress and fabric design by Delaunay, 1925-28. Printed silk satin with metallic embroidery. Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, Galliera. © L & M SERVICES B.V. The Hague 20100623. (image via).

Several fashion designs by Delaunay. Left (image via). Middle: Robe Poème, 1923 (image via). Right (image via). All three designs show Delaunay's love of color; when used in clothes they reminded her of the folk clothing worn at Ukranian festivals of her childhood. The dress in the center was one of Delaunay's "poem dresses," a simultaneous design which sought to unite poetry and fashion. She designed and made several, based on short poems she wrote. Delaunay spoke Russian, German, English and French (and, I assume, Ukranian) from childhood and was a lifelong devotee of poetry. She maintained close friendships with French poets Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars, among others.

Left: a Vogue cover (not illustrated by Delaunay) obviously referring to Delaunay's clothes and auto paint designs. (image via). Sonia herself did illustrate other Vogue covers in her fresh colorful style. Right: Two models wearing fur coats designed by Sonia Delaunay and manufactured by Heim, with the car belonging to the journalist Kaplan and painted after one of Sonia Delaunay’s fabrics, in front of the Pavillon du Tourisme designed by Mallet-Stevens, International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, Paris 1925. Bibliothèque nationale de France (image and caption via).

With the Great Depression in the 1930s the demand for luxury silks and hand-embroidered art-clothes dwindled, so Sonia switched back to primarily being a painter. She was happy to do it. While she loved commercial arts, she'd had enough of running a large commerical business. She would, however, continue designing fabrics for Holland-based Metz & Co. through the 1950s.

She did still work as a graphic designer in the 1930s, most notably experimenting with electric lights as part of art and commercial design. Her illuminated advertising posters for Zig Zag cigarette papers at the Salon de la Lumiére in 1937 won an advertising prize. Unfortunately I couldn't find any photos or specific descriptions of how this may have looked.

Throughout the 1930s the Delaunays also worked together to design pavilions for several international expositions; Robert designed the pavilions and Sonia made multiple large-scale themed murals.

Étude pour voyage lointins (panneau mural pour le pavillon des chemins, le Palais de l'air), by Sonia Delaunay, 1937. (image via). This painting is a huge mural for an exposition.


Propeller (Air Pavilion) by Sonia Delaunay, 1937. Skissernas Museum, Lund, Sweden. © Pracusa 2014083 Photo: Emma Krantz (image via). This painting is huge, one of Delaunay's three wall-sized murals for a pavilion at an exposition about technology. Robert had designed some of the expo's pavilions. 


In 1941 Robert died of cancer. Sonia devoted years after his death to securing his reputation as a painter and making sure his work was shown and sold and that his contributions to art history were recorded and celebrated. A friend of the Delaunays once commented that, while they and their son were all great creators of commercial arts, not a single one of them were business people at heart, and had a hard time really selling themselves as a brand despite thier successes, implying that a truly business-minded person could have turned their skills into booming business and household names. He held as an example the fact that Sonia had to devote so much energy to making sure Robert's name was well-known in the art world. Sonia's reputation, fortunately, never dwindled in her old age. 

Their son Charles, meanwhile, grew up to become a jazz musician and in 1930 opened the first jazz club in Paris, the legendary Hot Club de France. He and his club jam sessions introduced Django Reinhardt to Stephen Grapelli. During the Nazi occupation in World War II Charles used the club and its tours to spy for the Résistance; he was interrogated but released, while two of the club's co-founders were sent to concentration camps where they were killed. That's all I read about the Delaunay family's experience during the War. Sonia Delaunay was from a Jewish family but she never considered it an important part of her identity, so I don't know if it would have been known by the French or Germans. The Terks, who had adopted Sonia from their Ukranian relatives, had been so wealthy and they'd spent so much time traveling that the antisemitic persecution faced by many in Russia had had little impact on them. Robert and Sonia had moved to Auvergne to avoid the invasion, but Robert, who already had cancer, died soon after the move because of the stress it put on him in his poor health.

After Robert died Sonia lived briefly with fellow Dadaists-turned-modernists Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Hans Arp. She collaborated with the couple many times through the 1940s and 50s. She continued painting, never abandoning Orphism (which remained surprisingly relevant and appreciated through the decades) and showed her work in major international exhibitions, group and solo, throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s. In the 1960-70s Delaunay's reputation was boosted by the art deco revival (through the lens of mod, psychadelic and "Biba girl" trends). Some of her pieces were issued as tapestries by the fabric manufacturer Gobelins while major museums mounted retrospectives of her work. When Tristan Tzara's The Gas Heart was translated and published in 1977 it included ten illustrative lithographs by Delaunay (perhaps that's where David Bowie saw the costumes he copied in his 1979 SNL appearance). In the 70s she was widely published. One of her paintings was presented from the French President to the US President, and she was named an officer of the Legion of Honor. She died in 1979. 

Here is my own drawing of Sonia Delaunay. I based it on a photograph that may be her or a model wearing her designs (which I changed slightly). I surrounded her with more designs based on photos of people in her atelier wearing her clothes and standing against her paintings and designs on the walls. And of course I wanted to place the patterns against each other because simultanéisme. Plenty of photos of Delaunay survive, so I was easily able to conjure an image of her face.



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