Sonia Delaunay was a Ukrainian-French artist who, with her husband Robert Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. As a young girl she moved to St Petersburg and in 1905 moved to Paris, but she kept the memories of the bright patterns and “pure” colours of the traditional Ukrainian peasants’ clothes. It was in 1912 when Apollinaire coined the term Orphism after having seen the work of the Delaunays and Kupka. He felt that the rhythms within their work had a musical quality and so named the movement after the Ancient Greek musician, Orpheus. The Delaunays had a particular interest in the scientific relationship between colours, in particular the work of scientist Michel Eugène Chevrul. Chevrul worked on “simultaneous contrast”; the relativity of how different colours are perceived when contrasted alongside others of varying hues.


Delaunay’s output was varied and extended from painting to textile design, fashion, furniture and stage set and costume design. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in 1964, and in 1975 was named an officer of the French Legion of Honour.