Louisiana Museum of Modern Art opens an exhibition of works by Sonia Delaunay

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Louisiana Museum of Modern Art opens an exhibition of works by Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay, 12 February - 12 June 2022. Installation view. © PRACUSA S.A.

HUMLEBÆK.- On Saturday 12 February, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is opening its big spring exhibition featuring one of the most original voices of modernism, Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). The biggest presentation of the Russian-French artist’s work in Scandinavia to date, the exhibition showcases Delaunay's work across art and design, including paintings, drawings, prints, fabrics, fashion and more.

Sonia Delaunay was among the pioneers in developing and disseminating abstract art in the 1910s. She did not work with painting 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. The artist’s work will be on view until 12 June in a comprehensive exhibition displayed in the West Wing of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk.

Sonia Delaunay belongs to the first generation of artists who refined the nonfigurative vocabulary in the 1910s when abstract art spread like wildfire through the Western art world in several directions at once. 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.

Her work is a shining example of how the abstract-geometric vocabulary from the beginning evolved and spread across media and materials, while drawing on numerous sources of inspiration – in Delaunay’s case, Russian craft traditions, the modern metropolis and the experimental trends in art, literature, music, performing arts, advertising and fashion that were happening all around her, and that she had a hand in herself.

For too long, her diverse practice excluded her from the modernist canon, which was primarily focused on the development of abstract painting and the differences between the isms whilst Delaunay had a foot in many camps.

This exhibition presents Sonia Delaunay’s work from the 1910s and up to the 1970s, highlighting the range of her simultaneous project.

The first gallery of the West Wing brings together Delaunay’s earliest and latest works. Two brightly coloured portraits from 1907 meet the big abstract paintings she painted in the 1950s and 1970s. A sports car, decorated by the artist when she was 82, is displayed here as a modern echo of the first car she decorated, in 1925, and as yet another manifestation of her desire to apply colour and the modern vocabulary beyond the frame of painting.

The section that follows presents Delaunay’s work from the 1910s, when she extensively developed her simultaneous vocabulary. Also on display is her 1920s work in textile design and fashion. The artist contributed to the headlong evolution of women’s fashion after World War I, when European women finally discarded their tight corsets and dressed in looser fitting clothes suitable for an active, modern lifestyle. All along, Delaunay disseminated her aesthetic and the image of the modern woman in fashion photographs, a selection of which are included in this exhibition as photostats.

An array of Delaunay’s textiel designs are shown in a section highlighting her 30-year partnership with the Dutch department store Metz & Co. From painted sketches to finished fabrics, we see the wide range of her work. Designs for theatre costumes are showcased, as well. The artist created costumes and “poem-dresses” in collaboration with Tristan Tzara, a central figure in the Dada movement who became a close friend.

The exhibition also takes a look at Delaunay’s avid engagement in, and connections to, the avant-garde poetry of her day. She saw a close link between visual and verbal abstraction. While she detached colour from figurative and narrative painting, the poets that captivated her detached language from linear storytelling. The exhibition includes an experimental 1913 book, made in collaboration with the French poet Blaise Cendrars, alongside later publications.

Apart from paintings in oil, the exhibition also features a number of Delaunay’s brightly coloured gouaches. In fact, Louisiana’s collection has three gouaches by the artist, including a textile design. In 2012, several works by Delaunay were included in Louisiana’s exhibition Women of the Avant-Garde 1920-1940, and the museum has long wished to showcase the artist’s work on a larger scale.

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