Art News


At the Tate Modern there is one of the best exhibitions of 2015, The EY exhibition: Sonja Delaunay. Sonja Delaunay, cofounder with her husband Robert Delaunay of the Orphism art movement, worked  in design and fashion  as well as painting. This  is the aim that the exhibition delights in showing. The influence of advertising and graphic design can be seen in her paintings, but also in her designs for the cover of Vogue magazine. Most captivating are Delaunay’s designs for clothes, where the sharp edges of her distinctive abstract designs are brought to bear on the smooth contours of the human body.

The exhibition's approach  runs between chronological and thematic lines.The first four rooms cover Delaunay’s work from 1907 to about 1920 and introduce the spirited vision of a young Delaunay who saw the world in an entirely different colour spectrum. Then the path carry on across a room called ‘Rhythm and Abstraction’ shows a range of work from 1938–46, immediately followed by ‘Paris 1937’, which centres on the International Exhibition of that year.

The room, called ‘Fashion and Textiles’, dominates the exhibition. The meaning of the room in very simple and  focused: Sonja Delaunay created wearable, liveable art. Her radical designs came to epitomise the sleek, sophisticated 1920s woman. Her fabric designs haven’t dated and her furnishings are clearly the inspiration for many contemporary textile designers.

In this room there are rolls of fabric, items of clothing, photographs, a film projection, and an extraordinary reproduction of the ‘Vitrine Simultané’, a sort of dynamic display case for patterned designs that Delaunay’s husband built in 1924. The fabrics, which span from the early 1920s through to the 1960s, show how aesthetic  can trickle down from high fashion to mass production; the same abstract geometry that animated Delaunay’s canvasses from 1914 can be found adorning a scarf woven in 1969.

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