Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) was a designer that was always ahead of her time. Living in a world of her own design she was a respected painter- textile-fashion-industrial-interior designer. She designed everything about her space specifically to merge art with the everyday of life. Her trademark "look" was composed of abstract forms + bold use of color. Ironically the images here are all in b/w.
Born to a Jewish laborer's family in a small village in the Ukraine, Sarah Stern (*see below) was adopted by a wealthy lawyer + moved to St. Petersburg at the age of 5. Her name changed to Sarah Terk + was then educated by her governess who taught her French, English + German.
She grew up with a passion for art + design that lead her to Paris where she studied + worked. She met Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) a painter + became pregnant with his child... even though she was married to someone else!
Together she + her new husband, Robert, created a design duo whose shared legacy was the vocabulary of color. His on canvas, hers on everything else.
Capturing the spirit of the modern woman is this model wearing pajamas designed by the artist. Cigarette in hand, the room designed by the then avant-garde Pierre Chareau + Francis Jourdain, 1925.
Models wearing her fashions with a Cirtoen B12, which was also designed by the artist. A woman behind the wheel of this hip automobile represented female power + mobility, 1925.
Art, rugs + textiles all designed by the artist in her signature circular motif. Interesting to note a popular designer of today, Barbara Barry, also uses the repetition of an oval design, reminiscent in something from her childhood + also with a vintage feeling.
Window display of her designs: coats, jackets, bags + shoes. She did not view her clothing designs for retail as a devaluation of her art, but rather an extension of it. By the way, the gift shop at the Cooper-Hewitt sells a replicas of one of the scarves she designed, $125. Hint, hint.
The artist in her studio in Paris, 1925.
*On a personal note:
These are my Mom + Dad: beautiful, stylish + very much in love. This image was taken on their engagement day in 1948, at The Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, NY.
There seem to be many parallels between Sonia Delaunay's path + mine. My mother's maiden name is Stern. Might I be related to Sonia Delanay, who was born Sarah Stern?
My mom's background was not shaped by a governess as Sonia Delaunay's was, but instead by her piano teacher who took a young, eager Millie shopping along 5th Avenue to expose her to the finer things in life. Millie + Belle still share phone calls, occasional lunches + birthday cards: 86 + 96 respectively. Tradition continues as I shop constantly with my clients in hopes of educating them in the art of beautiful customized furnishings.
My mother's father + 3 brothers had a factory with 100 ladies sitting at sewing machines, making ladies suits. I will never forget the visits to Varick Street. It was always thrilling to see the cutting tables with the layers of fabrics piled high to be cut to produce thousands of finished garments. But honestly most exciting was the picking the clothes my mom + I wanted for ourselves. Arm loads of plastic covered, newly produced, wire hanger hung items my uncles urged us to take were selected, to be delivered our house. Each season our closets were filled with the latest + greatest designs. Since they were adult sizes, I had to re-work, taper + reinvent each piece to fit my youthful, but never petite, scale.
As I was interested in textile design from an early age, I earned my university degree in the fine art of abstract painting. My childhood was shaped by attending art schools at every opportunity: after class, weekends + summers. Silver smithing, weaving, sculpture, pottery, wood shop, sewing...every art form you could image. Loved to create. My dad, not to be upstaged by my interest in the visual, was my influence musically...still is.
I'll never forget the time my mother brought me by the hand into showrooms at the D+D Building, inquiring as to what schooling would be best for pursuing a career in textile design. The goal was that my drawings would eventually end up on fabrics to be sold by one of the vendors. That was back in high school. Someday soon, the cycle might come full circle as I might design a line of my own...
Is this art imitating life or life imitating art?
Who knew an innocent museum visit could stir-up all these memories? On this Mother's Day, I salute my own history, as reflected by the artistic path of this iconic designer.
Cheers to you, your memories + your aspirations.
Happy Mother's Day to the kid in us all! xox
A wonderful retrospective of Sonia Delauny's life + work is on display at The Cooper-Hewitt extended until June 19, 2011.
Concurrently running on the first floor is an amazing display of Van Cleef & Arpels Jewelry. That show was also spectacular - I have to share it here - so stay tuned.
Both are not to be missed, in person, if possible. The museum will be closed for renovation for 2 years starting in July. Darn those renovations!
ALL IMAGES FROM COLOR MOVES: ART & FASHION BY SONIA DELAUNAY PUBLISHED BY SMITHSONIAN COOPER-HEWITT NATIONAL DESIGN MUSEUM, NEW YORK