Sonia Delaunay Facts

Sonia Delaunay was a French abstract artist (born in the Russian Empire), best known for founding the Orphism art movement (an off-shoot of Cubism) and for producing abstract work with geometric shapes and bright colours. She also worked with textiles, and as a set designer and fashion designer.

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Facts About Sonia Delaunay

  • Sonia Delaunay was born in 1885 in Odessa (now in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire) as Sarah Elievna Stern.
  • Her family were Jewish, and her father worked in a nail factory.
  • She moved to St Petersburg to live with her mother’s brother’s family, the Terks. In 1890, she was adopted by Henri Terk (a wealthy lawyer), and became known as Sonia Terk.
  • Sonia went to school in St Petersburg at the age of sixteen, and her drawing skills were noticed by her teachers. When she was 18, she attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany.
  • In 1905, Sonia Delaunay went to Paris to attend the Academie de La Palette. She didn’t enjoy her studies, but she did enjoy spending time in the Paris art galleries.
  • Her work created from 1905 to 1910 was influenced by Henri Rousseau, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse and Derain.
  • In 1908, she formed a relationship with Wilhelm Uhde (a gallery owner). They enterered into a marriage of convenience. Through Uhde, Sonia was able to start showing her work in the galleries of Paris.
  • In 1910, Sonia divorced Wilhelm Uhde, and in the same year she married the artist Robert Delaunay. Their son, Charles, was born in 1911.
  • In 1911, Sonia Delaunay made a patchwork quilt to go on her son’s crib. She sais that the design “seemed to me to evoke cubist conceptions and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings.”
  • A friend of the Delaunays, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, described their new style of cubist work as Orphism.
  • Sonia Delaunay illustrated a book about the Trans-Siberian Railway by producing a 2 metre-long folded book, merging text and design. Paul Klee was impressed by Sonia’s use of squares in the book, and he started touse them in his own work.
  • In 1914, Sonia and Robert Delaunay travelled to Spain. When World War 1 started, they didn’t return to France. Instead, they moved to Portuagal, staying with the artists Samuel Halpert and Eduardo Viana. Sonia painted Marche au Minho during this period.
  • Following the Russian Revolution, Sonia’s financial support from her family in st Petersburg came to an end. She made up for this shortfall by designing costumes for Sergei Diaghilev’s production of Cleopatra, and for a performance of Aida in Barcelona. She also founded Casa Sonia, selling her interior decorationand fashion designs.
  • In 1921, Sonia, Robert and their son returned to Paris, and Sonia Delaunay created clothes with bold colours and geometrical designs for a manufacturer in Lyon.
  • During the 1930s, Sonia Delaunay produced design work for movies, and she also created fashion designs for Jacques Heim, Metz & Co, and Robert Perrier.
  • Robert Dealunay died in 1941 from cancer.
  • Sonia and Robert Delaunay once owned The Snake Charmer by Henri Rousseau. They sold it to the French fashion designer Jacques Doucet.

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.

Sonia Delaunay
  • In 1964, Sonia donated more than 100 works of art created by herself and Rober Delaunay to the Musee National d’Art Moderne.
  • She decorated the Matra M530 car for the Matra company.
  • Sonia Delaunay was named an officer in the French Legionof Honor in 1975.
  • In 1976, she produced a textile, jewellery and tableware range for Artcurial.
  • Sonia Delaunay died in 1979 at the age of 94. Her grave is located in Gambais, next to her husband Robert Delaunay.
  • Charles Delaunay, Sonia’s son, became a big player in the jazz music scene. He was a critic, and event organizer and a magazine publisher.
  • In 2004, Sonia Delaunay’s Coccinella painting was used for a French Post Office stamp design.
  • Sonia Delaunay’s paintings have been sold at auction for more than $1 million. For example, in 2017 Prismes electriques (1914) sold for $1.8 million, and Marche au Minho sold for $3.9 million in 2002.
  • She didn’t like Henri Matisse or Pablo Picasso. She described Matisse as being ‘too timid’ and thought Picasso ‘always looked unhealthy’.

I love creation more than life, and I must express myself before disappearing.

Sonia Delaunay

Other Sonia Delaunay Information

Why did Sonia Delaunay change her name?

Sonia Delaunay was born as Sarah Elievna Stern or Sarah Ilinitchna Stern. She changed her name for the first time (to Sonia Terk) when she was adopted by her uncle, Henri Terk. She changed her name again (to Sonia Delaunay) when she married Robert Delaunay.

What languages did Sonia Delaunay speak?

Sonia Delaunay spoke four languages. By the age of 18, she could speak and read Russian, French, German and English.

How did Sonia Delaunay die?

Sonia Delauany died of cancer in 1979 at the age of 94 in her Paris home.

Abstract art is only important if it is the endless rhythm where the very ancient and the distant future meet.

Sonia Delaunay