Sonia Delaunay worked across many media, although she is often thought of as a painter of colour and pattern, leaning mainly towards bright colours and bold geometric shapes. She is also known for her interior design, fashion design and textile design, and also for her portraits, which she painted early in her career, using bright fauvist colours and textured brush strokes.
Market at Minho
She was married to the painter Robert Delaunay and together they developed Orphism (a name coined by the French art critic Apollinaire, after Orpheus, being a mixture of colour and music). Orphism was an abstract movement with roots in cubism. With the use of bright colours and geometric shapes often based on circles in particular, she embodied the 1920’s Paris. The bright optimism (symbolised by the newly introduced electric light, which now brightened their Parisian world) can be seen in the joyful optimistic contrast between colour and shape in her work.
Ophism, is sometimes known as Simultanism. This name was coined by the colour theorist Michel Chevreul in his book On the law of the simultaneous contrast of colours. His book was the first to highlight the way colours appear different depending on which colour is laid next to the other. Delauney used the simultaneous contrast of colours to increase the vibrancy, rhythm and harmony of her work. This she used not only in paintings but also in the design of textiles, and in particular patchworks for evening dresses called wearable art and in a baby’s quilt.
Delaunay was above everything a colourist who played with shape and contrast to make her work dance.