Going to London over the summer? I recommend visiting Tate Modern to take in the latest EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay. Her career spanned much of the twentieth century. Often working with husband, Robert Delaunay, they developed a distinctive abstract style known as simultanism. The couple are often presented together, but the thing I like about this exhibition is that it puts Sonia centre stage, primarily celebrating her work.
I first came across the work of Sonia Delaunay when browsing the library shelves, looking for inspiration for my textile projects. The dynamic forms and vibrant colours in her abstract works are beautiful. They capture the essence of an era in painting, prints, graphic design, textiles and fashion. I particularly like the iconic Electric Prisms series; you can see an example on the Tate website. It’s an exploration of the effects of the new electric street lighting. Sonia also had a fascination with dance and captured the tango craze sweeping through Paris in the 1910s in paintings sketched at the Bal Bullier ballroom. Much to my delight, the exhibition included fashion and textiles. She designed costumes for her friend Sergei Diaghilev’s* production of the ballet, Cleopatra, and at least one of these was on display. There were also examples of other garments – including the extremes of a knitted swimming costume and a beautiful, geometric patterned, woolwork coat. An original film, Mademoiselle Y, in the background showed models wearing her Simultane brand clothing.
The exhibition has something for everyone. My husband lingered over the works designed for the 1937 Paris exhibition, The International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life. These large scale panels encompass, colour, graphic and technical design details. I came away feeling very inspired and couldn’t resist buying the beautifully illustrated catalogue, which actually contained images of everything in the exhibition. And, as it was my birthday, I bought the Madame Sonia Delaunay pop-up book too!
*Find out more about Diahilev and the Ballet Russes and its wonderful costumes by watching this video from The National Gallery of Art.