Simultaneous Contrasts


Early in her career, Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) took the geometry of color and form that she and her husband, Robert, were exploring on canvas and translated it to printed fabrics. She called these textile and costume designs “simultaneous contrasts.”


While living in Portugal during the First World War, Delaunay opened a store in Madrid called Casa Sonia, where she sold “simultaneous” dresses, coats, home furnishings, and accessories. She also designed the costumes for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russe performance of Cléopâtre (1918) and other avant-garde productions.

Back in Paris, Delaunay created a sensation with her two-dimensional cardboard “poem-dresses” for Tristan Tzara’s 1923 Dada production La Coeur a gaz (The Gas Operated Heart) . She and Robert were offered numerous exhibitions of both their canvases and textiles, including the influential Grand Bal Travesti-Transmental.


In 1924, Delaunay opened a Paris textile printing workshop, Atelier Simultané, to produce her line, Maison Delaunay. In addition, she collaborated with Jacques Heim on a display for the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. As a result, a limited edition portfolio of her designs was printed in pochoir and published by Librairie des Arts Décoratifs.

Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979), Sonia Delaunay: ses peintures, ses objets, ses tissus simultanés, ses modes, préface d’André Lhote; poèmes de Cendrars, Delteil, Tzara, Soupault (Paris: Librairie des Arts Décoratifs, [1925?]). Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection, Graphic Arts (GAX) Oversize 2004-0020E