Dynamic Colorism

 

The design of this scarf is very evocative of the work of Sonia Delaunay, one of my icons and favorite designers. I do not pretend that this scarf was actually one of her creations but clearly whoever produced it was influenced by her work. Sonia Delaunay was perhaps the first person to make a business out of textile design, as well as to make textile design recognized as an art. She and her husband Robert Delaunay championed what they coined “Simulanteity” in which placing contrasting colors side by side would create the sensation of movement and spontaneity.

Sonia began as a painter in the early 1900’s, and she and Robert Delaunay are considered pioneers of abstract painting. In her artwork she returned to the same motifs and subject matter: circles and semicircles that are intertwined or sliced through by contrasting angles of triangles and squares. There is a rhythm created by the repetition of circles radiating out from each other, their bands of color evocative of a color wheel. In addition to Sonia’s study of opposing forms, she was experimenting with how using contrasting colors affected how we see those colors. For the time that she was producing this work it was a very new idea.

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In the mid 1920’s Sonia expanded into textiles and fashion, essentially creating living works of art to be worn and used in everyday life. It was her way of introducing abstract art to the public, and pioneering the fusion of art with fashion. She started her textile business in 1925 and produced designs that were characterized by a playful and energetic quality, loosely painted and often with irregular hand drawn lines and shapes. Her textile designs were primarily geometric, playing with color blocking, stripes and small stylized motifs. She was a prolific designer: in addition to textiles and fashion, Sonia designed theater sets and costumes, ceramics, furniture, books and tapestries. Sonia’s artwork translates seamlessly from one medium to another, and her scarf designs are a natural for her colorful patterns. In the 1960’s and 70’s Liberty of London manufactured her scarves.

 

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I first discovered the work of Sonia Delaunay when I decided to study textile design and surface pattern painting. I was (and still am) struck by her fresh and unexpected use of color, and her designs feel so timeless and relevant. Her textile designs seem so simple and approachable, and I love how her hand is always present in the artwork. Nothing is rigid or formal, it all feels vibrant, dynamic, and new.

 

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