Sonia Delaunay: La Moderne  

Sonia Delaunay danced with color.

She was an artist who used color to create rhythms, movement and emotion in her work. You can hear music in Delaunays paintings. Like good jazz drumming, they vibrate with an interplay of complex rhythms.

A pioneering figure in early modernism, Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) forged new paths in abstract painting and design. An exhibition of her work at the Teien Art Museum brings together a range of her artistic endeavors from a career spanning over 70 years.

Delaunay was born Sarah Stern in 1885. Her father worked in a factory in Gradizhsk, in the Ukraine. At age five she was adopted by her wealthy lawyer uncle and moved to St Petersburg. She was given the new name, Sonia, by them and adopted their surname, Terk. She trained in languages and the arts in Russia, Germany then France.

Delaunay was in Paris studying art when revolution enveloped Russia and so she adopted France as home. After a marriage of convenience to an art dealer she later married painter Robert Delaunay.

Delaunay worked in many mediums including oil paint, gouache, watercolor, print, fashion, textiles, decorative objects, theatre design and murals. Examples of these are on display in this comprehensive exhibition.

In her native Ukranian language , Sonia, can mean "sun". Sonia Delaunay spent a lifetime capturing the light, color and movement of the sun. Circles were a predominant motif in all of her work. She created rhythms in her paintings by interlacing sections of circles. Delaunay dissects circles and reassembles them in different tones so that they cascade, rotate and move like parts of a machine.

Four large paintings titled 'Rythme colore (1945,46,53) dominate the main entrance to the exhibition and introduce Delaunays circular themes. Never still, the discs appear animated -- they float, spin and dance.

Other parts of the exhibition display weavings from her designs, costume designs for the Ballet Russe and watercolors illustrating poetry. No matter the medium, Delaunays work is joyful and exuberant.

This exhibition is organized through the Rutgers University Museum in the US. Displayed in the Art Deco styled Teien Art Museum, visitors in Tokyo are afforded a beautiful match of art and gallery setting.

The museum was originally built in 1933 as the residence for Prince Asaka and Princess Nobuko. The building was designed by Frenchman, Henri Rapin (1873-1939), and has many of it original interior fittings. The building wonderfully complements the period and style of Delaunays work. It is a treat to see them together.

through 8 September Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum