National Museum of Women in the Arts
Sonia Delaunay
November 14 1885 - December 05 1979
Photograph of Sonia Delaunay, 1923, unknown photographer, unknown location.
Place of Birth:
French, Russian
Phonetic Spelling:
soh-nyah dehl-oh-nay
Minority status:
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints, Painting, Textiles and clothing
Artistic Role(s):
Book Artist, Costume Designer, Draftsperson, Fashion Designer, Furniture Designer, Graphic Designer, Interior Decorator, Mosaicist, Muralist, Painter, Printmaker, Textile Designer, Set Designer
Artist's Biography:
An extraordinarily prolific and innovative artist, Sonia Delaunay produced easel paintings; public murals; theatrical, graphic, fashion, and interior designs; and designs for playing cards, ceramics, mosaics, and stained glass during her long career.

She was born Sarah Stern (nicknamed Sonia) in Ukraine, where her father was a factory worker. At five, Sonia went to live with a wealthy uncle in St. Petersburg and took his surname, Terk. Sonia studied art in Karlsruhe, Germany, and also, beginning in 1905, in Paris, where she spent most of the rest of her life. In 1910, she married the French painter Robert Delaunay, with whom she had a son.

Both Delaunays are associated with Orphism (also called Simultaneism), an offshoot of Cubism that they developed jointly in 1911. Like Cubism, the Delaunay’s approach to art is abstract, yet based on the real world. Unlike the mainly, monochrome Cubist works by Picasso and Braque, Orphism consists of bright hues and bold, repeating patterns, based in part on the Russian folk art Sonia had known as a young girl. In 1918, she designed her fist set of costumes for Sergei Diaghliev’s famous Ballets Russes. Thereafter, while Robert concentrated on painting, Sonia created costumes and sets for various theatrical organizations. She also designed the interior of a Paris clothing boutique, including the dresses, accessories, and furs sold in the store.

From the 1950s on, Sonia received numerous awards for her work. In 1964, she became the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Musée du Louvre, and in 1975, she was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor.

Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Académie de la Palette, Paris, France (1905-1906) Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe, Germany (1903-1905)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Robert Delaunay friend of Amédée Ozenfant friend of Blaise Cendrars friend of Jean Arp friend of André Breton friend of and influenced Alexandra Exter friend of Alberto Magnelli friend of Dunoyer de Segonzac friend of Marc Chagall friend of Tristan Tzara friend of Jacques Damase friend of Amadeu de Souza-Cardoso friend of Max Lieberman friend of Jean-Baptiste Joseph Dieudonné friend of Guillaume Apollinaire friend of Louis Carré friend of Sophie Taeuber-Arp student of Rudolf Grossman student of Ludwig Schmidt-Reutter influenced by Paul Gauguin influenced by Vincent Van Gogh
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, Republic of France, Paris, France (1975) Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, Republic of France, Paris, France (1958) Médaille d'Or, Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques, Paris, France (1937)
Earliest exhibition:
Galerie Notre Dames-des-Champs, Paris, France (1908)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Artists' Books from LRC Collection
Book as Art II
Artists on the Road: Travel as Source of Inspiration
Book as Art I
Artist retrospective(s):
Sonia Delaunay: A Retrospective, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA (1980) Hommage à Sonia Delaunay, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, France (1975) Donation Delaunay, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France (1964)
Related places
Paris (died at)
Study for "Portugal"