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Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979)

Sonia Delaunay was born Sarah Stern (nicknamed Sonia) in Ukraine in 1885 and at the age of five, she went to live with a wealthy uncle in St. Petersburg. After studying drawing at Karlsruhe in Germany she went to Paris in 1905 where she spent the rest of her life. She studied at the Academie de la Palette, where Ozenfant and Dunoyer de Segonzac were fellow students. Her early work was influenced by the Fauves.

Her first show was in 1908; she married Robert Delaunay in 1910. The couple became associated with the development of Orphism, a highly abstract art movement which paralleled the geometry of Cubism, but with a much brighter color palette. 

After Robert Delaunay's death in 1941, she continued to work and exhibit regularly as a painter and designer, often turning to printmaking. In 1963 Delaunay donated 58 of her own works and 40 of her husband's to the Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris. She became the first woman ever to be exhibited at the Louvre during her lifetime when the museum mounted an exhibition of the works in 1964. She worked continually throughout her long life in many artistic media beside painting. From the creation of a pieced quilt for her son in which she synthesized Russian peasant blanket design with Cubism, she moved on to collage, bookbinding, book illustration and eventually, to costume and theatre design, fashion design and decorative arts. She died in Paris in 1979 at the age of ninety-four.


Delaunay had numerous solo and group exhibitions during her lifetime. She was also honored with many awards, such as the French Légion d’Honneur (1975), Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (1958), and a gold medal for her two murals at the Paris World’s Fair (1937).

Select Museum Collections:
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Tate Gallery, London
Louvre, Paris