Jean-Louis Delaunay and Richard Riss have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
‘It was from that very strong desire to go past at Fauvism that my works from that epoch were born’. (S. Delaunay, in Sonia Delaunay, exh. cat., Buffalo, 1980, p. 18).
Jeune Finlandaise, painted in 1907 is an important painting from Sonia Delaunay’s early oeuvre. The painting is from a series of extraordinarily vibrant and adventurous portraits of young Finnish girls set against a sequence of coloured and patterned background.
‘Fauve’ paintings from 1907 present a dramatic synthesis of Sonia Terk previous academic training and her new interests. Responding to the persuasive influences by Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, she sought to develop these artist’s freer and more intense use of colour into a new, bolder and ultimately even autonomous and freeform language. From Van Gogh she retained the art of extracting the essential character of her models (she certainly saw the forty-five paintings by van Gogh exposed at the Salon of Independents in 1906). Gauguin’s example taught her to suppress details in favour of the larger design and to use colours that were not found in nature. And from Matisse, she learned to harmonize her figures with the background.
In line with other leading avant-garde artists of a like mind at this time, such as fellow Russian émigrés Wassily Kandinsky and Alexej Jawlensky (then based in Munich), Sonia Delaunay, in her series of paintings from 1907 showed herself to be perhaps the first of these to have moved beyond Matisse and Gauguin by fusing their influence into what she once described as ‘an extreme exaltation of colour with complete flatness’. In Jeune Finlandaise, Delaunay abolished the chiaroscuro that even Matisse still used, and she allowed bold free planes of colour an autonomy of their own, thus attaining the richer, more dynamic and expressive effect that would soon be seen in Germany in the art of Die Brucke and Der Blauer Reiter.
For the artist, it was a simple intuitive step that she took, ‘just for the pleasure of it… Colour excited me. I didn’t attempt to analyse what I was doing. These were things that came from inside me’ (S. Delaunay, quoted in Hajo Dutching, Robert and Sonia Delaunay: The triumph of Colour, Cologne, 1994). As the series of Jeune Finlandaise paintings reveals the strength and boldness of Delaunay’s further ‘freeing’ of colour was perhaps, as her husband Robert Delaunay described, ‘atavistic’ in nature, being essentially rooted in the pure colours of her homeland. ‘I am attracted by pure colours. Colours from my childhood, from the Ukraine. Memories of peasant weddings in my country, in which the red and green dresses decorated with many ribbons, billowed in dance. Memories of an album of folk costumes brought from Sweden by my uncles’ (S. Delaunay, quoted in exh. cat., op cit, Buffalo, 1980, p. 18.).
This rare work from Sonia Delaunay, formerly in the Maurice Lefebvre-Foinet collection is a fusion of all of these influences, from Russian Folk art to the latest paintings of Matisse. Jeune Finlandaise is a vibrant and powerful painting that not only established Delaunay as one of the leading pioneers among the international avant-garde, but also anticipates so much of what was to come.