Sonia Delaunay-Terk, née Sonia Stern, played a fundamental role in the development of Orphism, a trend which she expressed both in painting and in the design of fashion, textiles and books, among others. Born in Ukraine, when barely five Sonia was entrusted to her maternal uncle in Saint Petersburg, from whom she received a cosmopolitan upbringing.
Through Max Liebermann, an acquaintance of her uncle’s, she came into contact with the German art world and went to live in Karlsruhe in 1903 to begin studying painting. Two years later she furthered her training at the Académie la Palette in Paris. During these years her works reflected her admiration for the Post-Impressionism of Van Gogh and Gauguin, and the Fauvism of Matisse.
To avoid having to leave France, Sonia Delaunay entered into a marriage of convenience with the German dealer Wilhelm Uhde, who introduced her to avant-garde artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Robert Delaunay, whom she married in 1910 after divorcing Uhde. Thenceforward the artistic intercourse between them was constant. Like Robert, Sonia as interested in the colour theories of Michel-Eugène Chevreul and started on her non-figurative series of Simultaneous Contrasts in 1913. That year she collaborated in illustrating and designing the cover for Blaise Cendrars’
During the 1930s Sonia was in contact with groups of artists who advocated abstraction in art, such as Abstraction-Création and Cercle et Carré, and was one of the founding members of Réalités Nouvelles in 1939. After her husband died in 1941, she carried on working and collaborating in the promotion of abstract art. In 1964, after making a gift of her and her husband’s works, she became the first woman to be honoured with an exhibition at the Musée du Louvre.