“Color is the skin of the world.” --Sonia Delaunay’
In 1964 Sonia became the first living woman to have a retrospective of her work at the Louvre. It featured more than 200 works created over the course of eight decades including paintings, works on paper, and numerous decorative arts projects.
Questioned about how her gender may have affected her thinking and work over the years she said, “I never thought of myself as a woman in any conscious way. I’m an artist.”
In 1967, she had another retrospective at the National Museum for Modern Art in Paris.
In 1976 Sonia developed a range of textiles, tableware and jewelery with French company Artcurial, inspired by her work from the 1920s. She said:
"For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called 'decorative' work. I never considered the 'minor arts' to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art."
And in 1978 she published her autobiography, Nous irons jusqu'au soleil (We shall go up to the sun).
I've seen Sonia described as "the queen of color and abstract" and "the woman who made color dance." She even gave her colors their own names – crocodile (beige to brown), cactus (green), capucine (orange).
Often when reading about Sonia two terms come up: Orphism and Simultanism.
Orphism is a term originating from 1912 when French poet and art critic Guillaume Appollinaire identified the new style of Cubist painting. Appollinaire was inspired by the work of František Kupka and the Delaunays, who, although channelling the Cubist vision, prioritised colour in their work. Appollinaire felt this use of colour brought movement, light and musical qualities to the artwork and therefore referenced the legendary poet and singer of ancient Greek mythology, Orpheus, when naming the movement.
Simultanism is the strand of Orphism practised by the Delaunays. The name comes from the work of French scientist Michel Eugène Chevreul who identified the phenomenon of ‘simultaneous contrast’, in which colours look different depending on the colours around them. For example, a grey will look lighter on a dark background than it does on a light one. The Delaunays dispensed with form and aimed to created rhythm, motion and depth through overlapping patches of vibrant hues.
Sonia Delaunay died December 5, 1979, in Paris at the age of 94. She was painting the day she died.
Sonia chose to be buried in a dress that Hubert de Givenchy designed for her to wear while attending a reception for Queen Elizabeth. She was buried in Gambais next to Robert's grave.
"I always changed everything around me… I made my first white walls so our paintings would look better. I designed my furniture; I have done everything. I have lived my art."
She really did “live her art” expressing herself through not just her painting but clothing, furniture, costumes, etc. I think of her along with Frida and Georgia as artists who let creativity touch every part of their lives.