On Sonia Delaunay
“Her experiments with color and the use of color show me that there are no limits."
Danish artist Mette Winckelmann on her relationship with Sonia Delaunay and how she has inspired her work. Read more …
“There’s some wildness or an insistence on not being perfect. Sonia Delaunay was more avant-garde than the avant-garde because she understood how to combine her life with trying to earn money as an artist and expressing herself artistically.”
Sonia Delaunay was born into a Jewish family in Odessa, Russia (now Ukraine), as Sara Élievna Stern. Her parents gave her up for adoption to her mother’s well-off brother, Henri Terk, in St. Petersburg. She spent her childhood immersed in art and art books, took French, German, and English lessons, and went on European vacations with her family.
At age 18, she moved to Karlsruhe, Germany, to attend art school. A few years later, she went on to Paris to continue her education surrounded by the latest trends in the world centre of modern art. Delaunay briefly explored figurative painting, but above all, she cultivated colour in abstract compositions, in painting and design, from 1911 and up to her death in 1979, at age 94.
In 1910, Sonia Terk married Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), a painter her age. The two artists worked closely together in an ongoing exchange of artistic ideas until Robert’s untimely death in 1941. Sonia and Robert Delaunay had a vast network across the European and Russian art scenes. Their home in Paris was a meeting place for avant-garde artists and writers before and after World War I. Sonia and Robert worked closely together to develop a visual vocabulary based on rhythmic compositions of coloured planes – a colourful take on Cubism that their friend, the influential poet Guillaume Apollinaire, dubbed Orphism. Personally, Sonia Delaunay preferred the term Simultané, which even became a trademark and brand for her design and fashion work. Dynamic colour interaction was foundational to all of Sonia Delaunay’s work. Moreover, she was concerned with the interaction between different art forms, especially between the experimental poetry and the abstract vocabulary of her day.
Sonia Delaunay was among the pioneers in developing and disseminating abstract art in the 1910s. She did not work with paint only but swung freely between isms and roles across the boundary between “art” and “craft”, both as an avant-gardist and an entrepreneur and was a forerunner of contemporary experimental collaborations in art and design. Linking abstract art and fashion, she helped compose the modern woman of the 1920s while embodying one herself in her lifelong artistic project to connect the new abstract vocabulary with vibrant modern life. For too long, her diverse practice excluded her from the modernist canon, primarily focused on the development of abstract painting and the differences between the isms, whilst Delaunay had a foot in many camps.
Mette Winckelmann (b. 1971) is a Danish artist whose work explores abstraction in various media, such as painting, fabric collages, concrete walls and flags. She has exhibited worldwide, e.g. at AROS, Aarhus, Denmark, Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden and MoA Seoul, South Korea. Her work is held in the collections of SMK, the National Gallery of Denmark, FRAC, Auvergne, France and The Danish Art Foundation.
Mette Winckelmann was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in connection with the exhibition SONIA DELAUNAY at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in the spring of 2022. The interview took place at Mette Winckelmann’s Copenhagen home in January 2022.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edit: Rasmus Quistgaard
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022
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