The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is presenting Sonia Delaunay. Art, design and fashion, the first exhibition in Spain to be entirely devoted to this artist. As such its intention is to emphasise not only her important role as an avant-garde painter but also the way in which she successfully applied her aesthetic ideas to everyday life.
She started studying art in Karlsruhe (Germany) in 1904 and two years later moved to Paris to continue her training. In order to be able to remain in France she married the German art dealer Wilhelm Uhde, at whose gallery she first exhibited her work in 1908. It was through Uhde that she met avant-garde artists such as Picasso, Braque and Robert Delaunay, whom she married in 1910 following her divorce from the gallerist.
Around 1912 the Delaunays moved towards abstraction and championed the basis of a new art which rejected traditional media and was founded on the power of colour. This led Robert Delaunay to develop the theory of Simultanism. For the two artists Paris was the Simultanist city par excellence. It became their source of inspiration and the place where they started to analyse the effect of light on colours. However, it was in Madrid in 1917 that their experiments in translating the ideas of Simultanism to everyday life moved into the public realm. It was there that Sonia Delaunay began to work with performance arts and also opened a boutique in which she sold her clothes and interior design objects. This phase in Madrid, which took place exactly 100 years ago, was one of great freedom and experimentation for Sonia Delaunay and would influence all her subsequent artistic development from the 1920s onwards and following her return to Paris.
At the start of the second decade of the century Simultanism dictated Sonia Delaunay’s activities as she painted and made objects and clothes that reflected this new and colourful aesthetic. World War I broke out while the Delaunays were on holiday in Spain. As a result, in late 1914 they decided to settle in Madrid. During these years in Madrid the Delaunays also established contacts with avant-garde poets such as Ramón Gómez de la Serna and Guillermo de la Torre. Following her return to Paris in 1921 and inspired by the spirit of Dada, Sonia decided to decorate the walls of her house with poems by her many poet friends.
The Spanish experience encouraged Sonia to produce clothes for Parisian women based on the designs of her paintings in the manner of tableaux vivants [living paintings]. During those years she worked with Dada and Surrealist groups on theatrical and film projects In 1925 Delaunay enjoyed success with her participation in a decorative arts exhibition and she began to work for one of the large Dutch department stores, Metz & Co., a commercial relationship that lasted until the 1950s. 1937 Sonia participated with Robert on the decoration of two large pavilions for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, for which three preparatory designs are included in this section. After Robert Delaunay’s death in 1941 Sonia continued with her work and with the promotion of abstract art. In 1964 and following her donation of a hundred of her and Robert’s works, she became the first living woman to be honoured with an exhibition at the Musée du Louvre.