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Fishink In London Part 3. Tate Modern and Sonia Delauney

May 4, 2015

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Happy Bank Holiday everyone and welcome back to my London travels. Although it’s over a week ago now, the memories are wonderfully refreshed as I put these posts together to share with you. I arrived at the Tate in full sunshine and loved these lines of silver birch trees outside. I think they’re possibly my most favourite tree with their ghostly, papery bark  and a sense of strength and delicacy all in one.

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I always enjoy those first few moments when entering the Tate, when you’re transformed from a person into a small ant in a giant anthill of art ! (well kind of ). The bold lines, the silver metallic sweeping escalators and the beautifully textured wooden stairs, all add to my enjoyment of the space.

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I watched as very excited children, queued behind their friends, to get an opportunity to draw or write a coloured message on the huge art wall. It was fascinating to see technology so well used in an art gallery environment.

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I took my ticket and headed up to the Sonia Delaunay exhibtion. Not quite knowing what to expect.

Sonia Delaunay, was born in modern-day Ukraine (1185–1979),  a Jewish-French artist of the Art Deco period. She was famous for her colourful geometric textile designs, although her work extended to painting and stage set design too.

It was in 1911 that Delaunay’s distinctive style was born – along with the arrival of her son Charles.  She spontaneously created a quilt for his crib, and said of it: “About 1911 I had the idea of making for my son, who had just been born, a blanket composed of bits of fabric like those I had seen in the houses of Russian peasants. When it was finished, the arrangement of the pieces of material seemed to me to evoke cubist conceptions and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings.”

Sonia Delaunay, Coat made for Gloria Swanson, 1923-24.

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Delaunay met Sergei Diaghilev in 1917 and went on to design costumes for his production of Cleopatra and Aida. On their return to Paris from Madrid, she began to make clothes privately, and in 1923 her textile business was founded. Commissioned by a manufacturer from Lyon, Delaunay created 50 fabric designs in her distinctive style, using geometrical shapes and vivid colours. Soon after she began to work for herself and simultané became her registered trademark. Even in Milan this year, her work is seen to be emulated by designers who are also inspired by her style.

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She created many beautiful and decorative textile designs and there was a huge room dedicated to showing her garments and colourful patterns.

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She and her husband Robert were inspired by the wild colours used by the Fauvists, and by Cubism too. Experimenting with colour and design in a style they called simultanéisme, the Delaunays explored the way in which colours and shapes interacted and affected one another, employing a theory similar to Pointilism, in which the eye mixes closely-placed dots of primary colours.

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Sonia’s Electric Prisms series was inspired by the introduction of electric street-lights on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in 1913. These produced haloes of reflected light that she transcribed as intersecting coloured discs, radiating energy like artificial suns. Their division into four quadrants suggests the separation of white light into the prismatic spectrum of colours.

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After the second world war, Sonia was a board member of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles for several years. Sonia and her son Charles in 1964 donated 114 works by Sonia and Robert to the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Alberto Magnelli told her “she and Braque were the only living painters to have been shown at the Louvre”. In 1966 she published Rythmes-Couleurs (colour-rhythms), with 11 of her gouaches reproduced as pochoirs and texts by Jacques Damase, and in 1969 Robes poèmes (poem-dresses), also with texts by Jacques Damase containing 27 pochoirs.

In 1975 Sonia was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. From 1976 she developed a range of textiles, tableware and jewellery with French company Artcurial, inspired by her work from the 1920s. Her autobiography, Nous irons jusqu’au soleil (We shall go up to the sun) was published in 1978. Sonia Delaunay died December 5, 1979, in Paris, aged 94. She was buried in Gambais, next to Robert Delaunay’s grave.

Her work in modern design included the use of geometric abstraction and the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings and clothing.

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The exhibition is spaced out over 9 rooms and was a very well-organised, visual textile designers treat ! Catch it between 15 April and 9 August 2015 at the Tate Modern.

The two shops at the Tate always are a delight for their array of books, magazine publications and other sumptuous artefacts. From a previous Fishink post, I spotted the work of fellow illustrator Alice Melvin, who’s work seems to be a firm favourite with the Tate Shop as there was so much on display. Which is fine by me as it is rather splendid after all : )

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Great to see work from Alex Barrow , who’s London Bus Tee-Shirts I originally mistook for an illustration by Miroslav Sasek !

Miroslav sasek

Of course Alex’s bus is much more modern : ) You can purchase his items here.

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Something for everyone, young/old, arty/techie and even a huge array or Uber-cool magazines for the hipsters. Who are fanatical about their off-road bikes, mountain trekking, office furniture, tool sheds or sleek line clothing. All in a totally “I’m not really that interested, but I am going to buy an expensive magazine about the fanatical and slightly offbeat subject, that I’m not really interested in anyway ”  lol ! If that makes sense.

The children’s book section is huge, a familiar haunt and always makes me drool. Lovely to see some editions in the mix from the likes of Oliver Jeffers, Chris Haughton, Beatrice Alemagna, Ruth Green and Jon Klassen who I’ve either met in person, featured before on my blog.. or both !

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A culturally fascinating trip for both old and new subjects all under one roof.  Must do this again soon ! Part 4 of my London trip posts, featuring the work of Eric Ravilious, will arrive on Wednesday, see you here then. Hope you’re enjoying my journey too, please feel free to share Fishink with your friends : ) Enjoy your holiday.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2015 5:48 pm

    Wonderful, love Sonia’s color and design mix. Birch trees are my favorite also. You had a great trip!

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