Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern

I went to see the  Sonia Delaunay exhibition. It was super, and if you are in London do go. Delaunay (1885-1979) was an amazing abstract painter who worked with colour in a new and very exciting way. She also applied her ideas and designs to textiles – curtaining, carpets, and fashion. Here is a brilliant write-up of her work by designer Kate Davies (who of course is not me, although we share the same name. If you hire the audio tape you will hear Kate speaking in her gentle Yorkshire tones).

Here is one of Delaunay’s triptychs – you are probably already familiar with her work.

Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). "Rythme couleur". Huile sur toile. 1964.
Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). “Rythme couleur”. Huile sur toile. 1964.

The bold colours, the juxtaposition of colours which amplify each other, the geometric shapes are so full of life and compelling. I especially like when she puts two very close versions of one shade next to each other – look at the reds and greens in the painting above for example. And then, how lovely, she makes a cot quilt for her little boy, Charles. There are two shades of red next to each other in that too. The painting was partly inspired by this sort of Russian peasant quilt she had seen as a young child. Looking closely you see the tiny, but not very even stitches she put in herself.

Sonia Delaunay quilt
Baby Quilt (1911)

She also made clothes for her husband and herself to wear out, using the same patchwork technique. Her dress is made mainly in velvets and silks.

Also available to have a close look at were some amazing textiles, created for Dutch company Metz and Co.

And finally there was a gorgeous 1930s film featuring dresses made in Delaunay’s specially commissioned fabrics. There are also rugs, embroidered dresses, weaving, book cases, Vogue covers, books, enormous pictures. Lots of gorgeous colour. I just loved how she went from avant garde painting to making a frock, a carpet or an embroidered poem. What an amazing woman!


There was a lovely book about Delaunay’s fashions and fabrics, but it was £25. Half that on Amazon.

11 Responses

  1. Demented Fairy

    Crazy patchwork is as close as I can manage…I think Mr D’s weskit works better than Mrs D’s dress/ Maybe it looked better ‘in the flesh’? I love the green leaf/sea anemone fabric oooh yes. Lovely. Keep posting these exhibition write ups, it’s a huge treat to those of us who never get down to the smoke often enough. [Mind you, I’m hoping to come down in the summer- fancy organising a meet?]

  2. Stephanie

    K., We have a self-portrait of you with the waistcoat! I am especially drawn to the swimsuit outfits, which are good fun, though I’m crazy about the paintings, too. Oops.. I commented to Kbenco and then I see you’ve remarked that Kate is from Yorkshire.

  3. Cathe

    Oh, I love this post. The beautiful color palettes and geometric shapes!

    The two beautiful painted sketches of a dress and coat are so lovely. So inspiring!

  4. Jacqui

    Ooooh I am so envious, love the shape and colour. I tried to get to the Tate Modern but unfortunately it was closing so missed out on the treasures!!! Next time I’m in England it is on my list.

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