Cooper-Hewitt to Present “Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay”

First Major U.S. Museum Exhibition of Sonia Delaunay’s Work in 30 Years
November 9, 2010
News Release

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum will present the exhibition “Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay,” from March 18, 2011, to June 5, 2011. Organized by Susan Brown, assistant curator, and Matilda McQuaid, deputy curatorial director, the exhibitionwill feature Sonia Delaunay’s designs for textiles and fashion in the 1920s through the 1940s, when she was intensively exploring the relationship between fabrics and contemporary art in terms of movement and color. Among the more than 300 works on view are garments and textiles, with correlating designs, fashion illustrations and period photographs.

Known primarily as an abstract painter and extraordinary colorist, Delaunay (1885 – 1979) applied her talents and theories to all areas of visual expression throughout her career, including graphics, interiors, theater and film, fashion and textiles. She made little distinction between her paintings and her design work, considering all to be part of a practice of bringing art into everyday life. The exhibition features her 1946 oil painting, “Rythme Coloré,” as well as gouaches, illustrated poems and pochoir prints.

“By showing her work at Cooper-Hewitt, the constant interplay between art and design will be strong and clear and by virtue of Delaunay’s glorious colors, a very joyful experience,” said Bill Moggridge, director of the museum. “This will be an extraordinary opportunity to see Delaunay’s work in a context that takes into consideration the diversity of her artistic talent and the deep connections between form, color and movement.”

“Color Moves” surveys the artist’s designs for fashion and textiles, covering two major periods: the 1920s, when she had her own Atelier Simultané in Paris, and the 1930s, when she designed textiles for the fashionable Metz & Co department store in Amsterdam. The exhibition brings together exceptional examples of designs, textiles, garments and photographs from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, the Musée de l’Impression sur Étoffes de Mulhouse, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and private collections around Europe and the United States.

Born Sonia Terk in Russia, Delaunay moved to Paris as a young woman and remained there most of her life. In 1910 she married the painter Robert Delaunay, and through the 1910s the two worked closely together on their theory of “simultaneity,” or the sensation of movement and rhythm created by the simultaneous contrasts of certain colors. 

The exhibition will begin with her experimental “poem dresses” of the 1910s, which represented a synthesis of word, body and movement. The concept perhaps first coalesced for her in the work with poet Blaise Cendrars, whose poems she illuminated with abstract color forms.

The first large gallery will be devoted to the Simultaneous Boutique, which opened in conjunction with the 1925 Paris Decorative Arts Exposition, and where she exhibited garments that were extensions of her painting practice. The fashions are pure geometric forms in rhythmic patterns and brilliant colors that exactly suited the modern spirit. A display of garments from this period will be on view, including driving caps, bathing suits and a coat made for Gloria Swanson. Black-and-white photographs of models and famous actresses of the day wearing Delaunay’s creations evoke the glamour of Jazz Age Paris in the 1920s.

The second part of the exhibition will examine her work for the Metz & Co department store in Amsterdam, which is virtually unknown in the United States. The completeness of the Metz & Co collection enables Cooper-Hewitt to show Delaunay’s process, from the initial sketch through the finished product, as she developed her technical skills as a textile designer. Metz & Co director Joseph de Leeuw also promoted other artist/designers, including Bart van der Leck and Gerrit Rietveld, and one area of the exhibition will explore the mutual aesthetic influences among these important figures.

Exhibition Materials

The exhibition will be designed by Toshiko Mori Architect. 

A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition, featuring essays by Matteo de Leeuw-de Monti and Petra Timmer.

“Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay” is funded in part by The Coby Foundation Ltd., The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation and the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund.

Additional support is provided by Lisa S. Roberts and the Felicia Fund.

About the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum


Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt—granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications.

The museum is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit routes include the 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $15; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $10. Cooper-Hewitt and Smithsonian members and children younger than age 12 are admitted free. For further information, call (212) 849-8400 or visit The museum is fully accessible.   

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