Sonia Delaunay – a Woman and Complete Essay

Sonia Delaunay was one of the prominent artists of the 20th century. At the same time, she was the first woman who has achieved an unparalleled success for her works were exhibited at the Louvre, while her contribution in the development of the modern art was rewarded and recognized by the state since she was named the officer of the Legion of Honor. In fact, not a single woman had had such rewards and such recognition before Sonia Delaunay.

However, all her achievements and rewards were not occasional. Instead, it was a result of the hard work and great talent of the artist, who proved to be very successful in her artistic experiments. What is more important, Sonia Delaunay managed to experiment in the modern art and she developed her own, unique and original style which was known as Orphism. Moreover, she had never limited herself with painting only. Instead, she attempted to develop her ideas in textile design and stage set design. In such a way, it is obvious that Sonia Delaunay was definitely one of the first female artists who achieved a tremendous success in the world of art in the 20th century and it is probably due to her different, non-masculine view of art, her works are so original and different from many other works created in the epoch.

On analyzing the development of Sonia Delaunay as an artist, it should be said that it was not an easy way to go for her to become an artist. In fact, she had to overcome numerous social and cultural biases to become an artist and to focus on her favorite work, which was not even a work but rather a lifestyle, a mode of self-expression and communication with the audience. In this respect, it is important to underline that Sonia Delaunay is recognized by the world as an outstanding French artist for she lived and worked in Paris, but she had not always been in Paris, which was the center of the world’s art (Grosenick, 194). In stark contrast, she had to take her own place in Paris, where she could create, work on her paintings and progress as an artist. In fact, she had to fight for her place in art and in Paris with existing biases and with the pressure from the part of her family.

To put it more precisely, Sonia Delaunay, whose original name was Sonia Stern, was born in Gradizhsk and at the young age she moved to St. Petersburg where she lived in the family of her mother’s brother Henri Terk. Eventually, the Terks adopted Sonia Delaunay in 1890 and this was a very important event in her life since due to the adoption by the Terks and her life in this family gave her larger opportunities to learn art and painting (Baron, 129). In fact, it is due to the Terks Sonia Delaunay became interested in art and painting, in particular. Her foster family travelled all over Europe, where Sonia Delaunay could have an opportunity to visit museums and art galleries, which produced a profound impression on the young girl and, probably, determined her choice and decision to become an artist. At the age of 18 she was sent to Germany where she got her education and in 1905 she moved to Paris, where she continued her education and formation as an artist (Harrison and Woods, 713). She sincerely believed that Paris was a true center of the world’s art. However, her education in the Academie de la Palette in Montparnasse did not really satisfy her needs and interests as an artist. Instead, she was more interested in works of modern artist, which were different from traditional art and which were closer to Sonia Delaunay’s tastes and artistic preferences. In fact, works of Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau and other modern artists were consistently more important for her formation as a professional artist than her education in the Academy (Baron, 147). At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that works of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau produced a particularly significant impact on Sonia Delaunay and her creative work.

However, she had limited opportunities for developing her artistic skill and starting her artistic career. She had to overcome the existing gender-related biases and stereotypes in order to become an artist or, at least, to have a chance, to attempt to become one. In this respect, she had to overcome not only the resistance of her social surrounding in Paris, which was not the most serious obstacle to her artistic career, but, what was consistently more important, she had to overcome biases and prejudices of her own family. Her family was quite conservative and it was really unusual for that epoch for a young woman to become an artist. In that epoch patriarchal views prevailed, especially in Russia where the Terks lived. The family was very important for Sonia because she could not afford living in Paris without the support of her family. This is why to get a chance to live in Paris, where she could develop her talent and skills and where she could create, she married Wilhelm Uhde, a German homosexual and art gallery owner, who actually opened her the way to the world of art. Due to the marriage Sonia got a chance to get acquainted with leading artists of the epoch and she could start her own creative work. In 1910 she married Robert Delaunay and her son Charles was born (Madsen, 147).

These changes in her personal life stimulated the rapid development of her creative work since, in 1911, she created a patchwork quilt for Charles’ crib (Grosenick, 215). This crib was created spontaneously under the impact of emotions and feelings that overwhelmed the artist and which she expressed with the help of geometric forms and color. The impact of cubists could be easily traced in this early work by Sonia Delaunay. However, it was a different work.

Unlike many other works created by male artists, Sonia Delaunay refused from the traditional perspective and naturalism in her art. But her works were different from woks of other modern male artist since she had managed to combine geometric forms and colors developing the new direction in the modern art. This trend became known as “simultaneism” and it was particularly obvious in Sonia Delaunay’s “Bal Bulier” (1912-13) (Baron, 183). In fact, she used forms and colors in such a way that different forms and colors were placed next to each other and mixed by the eye. Thus, it was practically impossible to distinguish which form or color was primary and which one secondary, or which was dominated and which dominant. As a result, Sonia Delaunay’s works acquired a unique characteristic since they were practically “alive” due to the movement present in her paintings in the result of the use of her simultaneous design technique.

It is worth mentioning the fact that Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet and friend of Sonia Delaunay, defined her experiments and her style as Orphism, which was actually the unique derivation from Cubism developed by Sonia Delaunay (211). At the same time, the acquaintance with Apollinaire contributed to the closer cooperation of Sonia Delaunay with poets. For instance, she illustrated poems of Blaise Cendrars, including his poem “The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France”. In fact, it was a 2 m long accordion type of book, which was later exhibited along with other works created by Sonia Delaunay. In this work, she also used simultaneous design principles (217). As a result, the book merged text and design that was very unusual for the epoch.

Later, Sonia Delaunay started experimenting with paintings and other applied works, such as dresses, where she continued developing her original and unique style. Moreover, after the outbreak of World War I and Revolution in Russia she was forced to focus on dress design and stage set design to earn for living with the help of her creative work (Madsen, 148). But she had never refused from the use of her unique style and Orphism became an essential characteristic of her works in different arts.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that Sonia Delaunay had to overcome numerous biases and prejudices to become an artist since it was unusual for a woman to be an artist. But she managed to become an artist and she was very successful in her simultaneous design and Orphism paintings.

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