Sonia Delaunay, Design B53, 1924, gouache on paper, 39 3/8 x 29 1/2".

Sonia Delaunay

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sonia Delaunay, Design B53, 1924, gouache on paper, 39 3/8 x 29 1/2".

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Robert and Sonia Delaunay together developed what their friend Apollinaire would baptize “Orphism” and what the couple named “Simultaneism”—the infusing of Cubism’s fractured planes with side-by-side, contrasting colors to effect the sensation of movement that the Futurists were concurrently pursuing. Their subsequent output, however, as if a parable of one of modern abstraction’s hardiest paradoxes, diverged on the road to the real. He took the idealist fork—believing his “Fenêtres” (Windows), 1912–13, paintings to be transparent to pure light and immediate vision—and she the materialist: At once more intuitive and more practical than her husband, she rechanneled her energies into designing fabrics, clothing, interiors, painted ceramics, and neon-light sculptures. In part this was a choice born of necessity. The

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