Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) was a French Jewish artist who cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colors and geometric shapes. Her oeuvre extends to painting, textile design, and stage set design. Delaunay was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964.
Born in Ukraine, Delaunay was educated in Germany and France, and eventually made Paris her home. She and her husband Robert founded Orphism, an art movement based on the concept of "simultaneous contrast," in which primary and secondary colors are combined and seem to "vibrate" to the eye. Delaunay expanded this mvoement beyond painting to clothing, furniture, textiles, set design, and even a "simultaneous" book with writer Blaise Cendrars, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France (Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Joan of France) (1913).
After World War I, Delaunay designed costumes for operas and ballets around Europe, including the Ballets Russes, and created a series of “poem dresses” where the relationship between the words and colors shifted with the wearer’s movements. In 1924 she created her own fashion design company, and her clothes were sold by department stores in London, New York, and Amsterdam. Delaunay was invited to speak at the Sorbonne in 1927 on “The Influence of Painting on the Art of Clothing,” where she introduced the revolutionary idea of prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear). In 1937, she and her husband created large-scale murals for the Air and Railroad pavilions at the Paris World’s Fair. Delaunay had numerous solo and group exhibitions during her lifetime and was honored with many awards, including the French Légion d’Honneur (1975), Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (1958), and a gold medal for her two murals at the Paris World’s Fair (1937).