Women from History: Distinct Delaunay

By Julia Ritson There are a myriad of ways to view Sonia Delaunay.

Painter, colourist, textile designer, mother, and wife, Delaunay returns to Paris in the middle of a world-wide shift. The new jazzy world of the 1920s. In response to the cultural change in the air, there was a whole lot of new women stereotyping going on. And Sonia was there.

Delaunay's work was instinctively about extending the idea of art into the everyday. An extension of her field of painting. Taking pure colour, lines and creating bold geometry. She was living and breathing this art life with husband Robert.

Here she is adorned in one of her large scarves.

Sonia Delaunay, draped in large scarves of her own design, 1923, image from 1980 Retrospective catalogue 

Sonia took to the world of fashion and used her apartment to create a total experience for the visitor. A three dimensional collage.

All this modernity was very appealing and quickly brought to Delaunay a bevy of commissions. Simplified designs and striking colour. A "rich discrete elegance."

Electrifying pattern making.

Sonia Delaunay, Scarf, produced for Liberty's of London, 1967, image from Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay Catalogue

It was the textile work Delaunay created for the progressive Dutch department store Metz & Co that gave Delaunay the freedom to continue painting.

And what wonderful textiles. It's always great to see the process of creation.

Sonia Delaunay, Design 1492, 1934-36, gouache on paper, image from Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay Catalogue

Black roses.

Sonia Delaunay, Design 4902, Rosarium I, 1950, gouache and pencil on paper, image from Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay Catalogue

When Delaunay was in her 70s she more or less gave up creating textiles and instead, for the next 2o years, focused solely on painting.

Sonia Delaunay, Rhythm-Color, 1967, oil on canvas

All those years of working in fashion and textiles opened the way for some thoughtful experimentation and spontaneity in her later years.

What a lovely legacy.

Julia Ritson is a Melbourne artist. Her paintings investigate colour, abstraction and a long-standing fascination with the grid. Julia has enriched and extended her studio practice with a series of limited edition art scarves. She also produces an online journal dedicated to art and scarves and architecture.