Sonia Delaunay: On the Rise


Sonia Delaunay was born in Ukraine in 1885 and was adopted by her affluent Jewish lawyer uncle Henri Terk in 1890. She had a privileged upbringing and traveled Europe widely to various museums and galleries. At the age of 18 she was sent to an art school in Germany and in 1905 decided to move to Paris.

Once in Paris, Sonia enrolled in the Académie de la Palette in Montparnasse. However she was not happy there and tended to spend more time in the galleries around Paris. Her own work during this time was influenced by artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Henri Rousseau and Gauguin. In 1908 she married German homosexual art gallery owner Wilhelm Uhde. It was during her time at Uhde’s gallery that she met and had an affair with Robert Delaunay.

Sonia and Wilheim Uhde divorced in 1910, and Sonia went on to marry Robert Delaunay and have a son named Charles. Sonia is quoted as saying about Robert, “In Robert Delaunay I found a poet. A poet who wrote not with words but with colors.”

The Delaunays are often credited with the creation of Orphic Cubism or Orphism. This is a form of Cubism that focused on pure abstraction and bright colors influenced by Fauvism and the dye chemist Eugène Chevreul.

Sonia, who made paintings, prints, books, textile and fashion designs, carpets, furniture, mosaics, and the odd movie set, is more often remembered as the wife of Robert Delaunay, but she is an established artist in her right, whose works today are gaining the respect of the art market.

Susan Brown, who co-curated “Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay,” on view through June 5 at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in New York, notes that a critical reappraisal is in the offing. “It’s my impression that she’s going to fare better in the long haul. Particularly in the past 10 years or so, there’s been a lot of focus on her work.”This can be seen in the six auction records for Sonia that were set this past year, with prices outpacing estimates.

“The demand is escalating along with prices, and the number of collectors who seek her works is also rising,” says Thaddée Poliakoff, owner of Le Coin des Arts gallery, in Paris. Sonia’s high stands at €4.1 million ($3.9 million) from a 2002 auction of the 1915-16 canvas “Marché au Minho.”

Another opportunity for collectors are Sonia’s works on paper. Prices are relatively low for her prints and gouaches, which can be purchased from our Delaunay collection. It is “Pochoirs” that command the highest prices, due to rarity. According to Tudor Davies, head of prints for Christie’s Americas, “her etchings tend to be valued more highly than her lithographs, no doubt because they provide a better sense of surface.” He advises collectors to “look at the strength of the composition and the use of color and contrast. Simply put, you want the image to be as strong visually as possible when it is on the wall.”

Information was obtained from Artist Dossier: Sonia Delaunay –

Suggested Delaunay artworks:

  • Carrés magiques,1980
    Sonia Delaunay
    Woven Wool Tapestry
    Item # 3806

  • Projet de Tissue (Study for Fabric Damiers), No. 5112, 1925
    Sonia Delaunay
    Unique Gouache on Paper
    Item # 3094

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