Week 3 in my study of Sonia Delaunay:
The Great Depression caused a decline in the fashion business so Sonia returned to painting. She still designed for Jacques Heim, Metz & Co, Perrier and private clients on the side but she said "the depression liberated her from business."
In 1937, she and Robert were invited to contribute to the 1937 Paris Exhibition, a project that would take up much of their time and energy for most of two years. Entitled The International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life, it was intended to celebrate scientific innovation and boost trade. Working as part of a collective the Delaunays helped to design and decorate two of the exhibition buildings.
Sonia’s large-scale panels for the Railway Pavilion were awarded a gold medal by the exhibition judges but sadly most of them have not survived. For the Palace of the Air, she created three murals, "Propeller," "Aeroplane Engine", and "Dashboard, shown here.
I love an artist's journal so I was excited to read that Sonia kept a diary from 1902-1905 and then picked back up again in 1993 until her death.
"Reading her journal of that time one encounters an overwhelmingly active person with a loaded schedule and an iron discipline. She was busy with interior decorating, she did dress fittings with clients, she saw agents who introduced her to firms that she might want to sell a design to, whether for fabrics or carpet. Without employers, she ran a one-woman show in order to keep the Delaunay household going, only assisted by a few seamstresses or a lady to embroider the appliqués, and occasionally by her son Charles, who was in fact a talented artist before he set out to become a jazz and record producer." —Sonia Delaunay: Art, Design and Fashion
With World War II looming the Delaunays fled to the South of France to avoid the Nazi invasion. Suffering from cancer, Robert was unable to endure being moved around and his health deteriorated. He died on October 25, 1941 in Montpellier at the age of 56.
Robert’s fame as a painter had been on the decline and by 1945 he was virtually unknown. Sonia worked tirelessly to restore her husband’s reputation. She persuaded galleries to show his work and in 1963 donated 114 of his works to the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris
His portraits often depicted Sonia’s fabric designs and his abstract work is very similar to hers. I’ve found that that even in books/posts about Sonia, Robert’s work is mixed in until it becomes very difficult to tell whose work is whose.
After Robert's death in 1941 Sonia survived by selling both her own designs and Robert's paintings. She was forced to move frequently worried that she would be arrested. Once in Cannes she was questioned regarding her middle name, Stern. She stood her ground, refusing to show fear, and was able to board her train and escape capture.
At the end of the war in 1944, Sonia returned to Paris intent on assuring that Robert's artistic legacy received proper recognition. When she was confident that this goal had been achieved she began to focus on her own art again. She worked at the easel almost every day concentrating primarily on a series called Colored Rhythm.
I was surprised to find a children’s book about Sonia. I like that the story doesn’t try to cover her whole life like a biography. Instead Sonia takes her son Charles on a flying adventure to explain how colors sing and dance. Sonia’s art is mixed in and works beautifully together with the story and illustrations.