Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Many contemporary artists are expanding into other creative fields: we’ve seen Damien Hirst creating jewellery and Yayoi Kusama working with fashion brand Louis Vuitton. Sonia Delaunay was already branching out at the beginning of 20th century, and you can explore her extremely versatile talent at Tate Modern’s current retrospective.
Delaunay’s career started in Paris in the 1910s: influenced by artists such as Paul Gaugin and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, her first paintings still show interest in the human figure — like the Yellow Nude above — although the attention to strong, vibrant and vivid colours is already clear. After her marriage with artist Robert Delaunay in 1910, the two commenced a life-long research focusing on the perception of colours, which led to the theory of simultaneous colour-contrasts on canvas, called Simultanism.
Our favourite room here is the one dedicated to the 1937 Paris Exhibition, which contains three massive mural paintings produced by the Delaunays for the Palace of the Air, depicting a propeller, an engine and an instrumental panel. The technical representation of the machines is perfectly incorporated into complex abstract compositions, made even more striking thanks to the savvy use of colours.
A big part of Sonia Delaunay’s career was dedicated to fashion: she first started creating ‘simultaneous’ dresses for herself and then developing her own artistic designs into fashion patterns. Her fashion brand Simultané was launched both in France and in the USA, and Delaunay was so respected and powerful at the time, she was commissioned to design the costumes for the 1918 production of Cleopatra at London Coliseum.
Although some of the artworks here might seem a bit repetitive, what’s incredible about Sonia Delaunay is her ability to work and demonstrate her talent in such a vast range of artistic fields. She was definitely a woman ahead of her times and a great source of inspiration for modern artists.
The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay is on at Tate Modern until 9 August. Tickets are £16 for adults and £14 for concessions. We suggest you book in advance. Londonist saw this on a complimentary press ticket.