SONIA DELAUNAY (1884-1979)
SONIA DELAUNAY (1884-1979)
SONIA DELAUNAY (1884-1979)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A NEW JERSEY COLLECTION
SONIA DELAUNAY (1884-1979)

Portrait de jeune fille

SONIA DELAUNAY (1884-1979)
Portrait de jeune fille
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. (65 x 49.9 cm.)
Painted in 1907
Estate of the artist.
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne.
Gallerie del Levante, Milan.
Private collection, New York; sale, Christie's, New York, 16 November 1988, lot 297.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Paris, Galerie Notre Dame des Champs (Galerie Wilhelm Uhde), Sonia Delaunay, 1908, no. 13.
Paris, Artcurial, Sonia Delaunay, 1979.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Post lot text
Jean-Louis Delaunay and Richard Riss have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

The modern painter and designer Sonia Delaunay, née Terk, was born in 1884 in Gradizhsk, Ukraine—then apart of Imperial Russia. After studying at the Kunstakademie Karlsruhe in southwestern Germany, Delaunay arrived in Paris, the city that would utterly transform her and her art, in 1905. Delaunay briefly enrolled in Académie de La Palette, a progressive art school situated in Montmartre. By 1907, however, Delaunay had liberated herself from the hypercritical constraints of the academy and established her own studio on the Rue Campagne Première in the bohemian district of Montparnasse. It was there that she painted the boldly pigmented canvas Portrait de jeune fille.
This strictly frontal, highly stylized portrait of a young woman belongs to a small series of similar, brightly colored works painted around 1907-1908. In the present work, an unknown model wears a simple, yet severe dark-blue dress with a high neckline, which echoes her somber expression. The young woman’s sandy brown hair has been rigorously parted at the center of her scalp and arranged in a chignon. This tidy, symmetrical hairstyle reveals the boldly etched anatomical architecture of the subject’s face: thin, arched eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes, and prominent round cheekbones. Delaunay rendered the sculptural, three-dimensional volume of these facial features with radical colors. She used a highlight of pale blue, for example, to convey the elegant curves of her subject’s forehead and chin; a range of shocking pinks stand for the shadowy contours of her cheeks and nose.
Later in her life, Delaunay reflected on the pivotal role of color throughout her career, and the influence that Post-Impressionists exerted over her early work. The artist recalled, speaking of herself in the third person: “Since she began to paint, the pictorial research of Sonia Delaunay has been directed toward the purity and exaltation of color. From her very first works, she has tried to impart the maximum of intensity to color. Her spiritual masters were Van Gogh for intensity and Gauguin for the investigation of planar colored surfaces” (quoted in T. Slevin, Visions of the Human: Art, World War I and the Modernist Subject, London, 2015, n.p.) In addition to Van Gogh and Gauguin, Delaunay was undoubtedly also inspired by the wild, hallucinatory coloration of the Fauvist painters, Henri Matisse and André Derain, who first exhibited their experimental work in Paris at the Salon d’Automne in the summer of 1905. Matisse’s polychromatic Portrait de Madame Matisse à la raie verte, for example, must have been a point of reference for Delaunay’s work (1905, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen). She may also have been familiar with the early forays into abstraction of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, whom she met through her first husband, the German gallerist Wilhelm Uhde.
In 1910, three years after the execution of Portrait de jeune fille, Delaunay married her second husband, the Cubist painter Robert Delaunay. Together, the Delaunays would develop a new abstract vocabulary inspired by the rapid changes in culture, politics and technology in the first several decades of the twentieth century. Their mutual theoretical and formal innovations coalesced into a movement that they deemed ‘Orphism.’ Yet Sonia Delaunay’s individual contributions to the history of modern art—particularly through her experimental costume and textile designs, abstract works on paper, ceramics and beyond—are less widely acknowledged. Early works like Portrait de jeune fille, however, demonstrate the true scale of her painterly talent and ambition, as well as her close engagement with the avant-garde developments of her time.

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