(1885, Gradizhsk, Russian Empire–1979, Paris)

Sketch of a man’s suit for a fashion house, 1925
Watercolor on paper, 42 × 27 cm
Boris and Marina Molchanov collection, Moscow

Sonia Delaunay and two friends in Robert Delaunay’s studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris, 1924
Photograph (exhibition copy)
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

In 1924, when Liubov Popova died tragically in Moscow, and Varvara Stepanova’s work at the First State Textile Printing Factory had almost come to an end, the French artist of Ukrainian descent Sonia Delaunay opened the Atelier Simultané in Paris, her own studio for producing fabrics with her designs. The atelier operated until 1934, producing textiles using the traditional method of hand block printing. In contrast to the floral motifs that dominated the decorative arts of those years, Delaunay used geometric ornament, but unlike the constructivists, she rarely used a ruler and compasses, which meant that her drawings, with their picturesque, carefree, and pulsating contours retained her individual signature, and when they were transferred by hand to the fabric, this effect only increased. As in the paintings of her husband, Robert Delaunay, the geometric elements in Sonia’s fabrics served only as a means of distributing color in order to achieve the effect of contrast. In dressing the small circle of the intellectual elite in Paris, Delaunay satisfied both the taste for luxury and artisanal products and—with her shockingly bold and extravagant dresses—asserted the principles of abstract art. As a result, the scale of her business was more modest than that of Coco Chanel.

Ekaterina Lazareva