Sonia Delaunay was born to a poor Ukrainian family in 1885, survived two World Wars, and died wealthy in Paris in 1979. In between, she co-founded the French avant-garde movement Orphism with her husband, the painter Robert Delaunay, claimed the first retrospective for a living female artist at the Louvre, and conceived -- as a practical side venture -- a brand that helped define the style of sophisticated authors (Nancy Cunard), international performers (Diaghilev’s Madrid dancers) and, indeed, much of 20th-century cosmopolitan culture.
Sonia described her textiles as mere “exercises in color” that informed her true passion, painting. But her work in fashion and the applied arts, via her Maison Delaunay design atelier, may well be her broader legacy. Such is the argument of “Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay,” an exhibition co-curated by Matilda McQuaid and Susan Brown at the Cooper-Hewitt, where it is on view this spring. Presenting a lush collection of some 250 screen-printed, hand-sewn and embroidered patterns, the show contextualizes Sonia-the-Designer with a handful of photographs, drawings and ephemera that illustrate the trajectory of her creative beginnings.
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