Tuesday, 8 September 2009

1925: The Iconic 'Simultaneous' Carpet of Sonia Delaunay

That's it! The holidays are over and it's time to comment on rugs again. The choice of subject was particularly large, but as I have just read a book by Jacques Damase about the life of Sonia Delaunay, the choice seemed clear.

Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979), was the wife of the French painter Robert Delaunay. She began working successfully with textiles during the First World War while living in Spain. She produced fabrics and fashion garments that were sold through several retail outlets. In 1920, she and her husband decided to move back to Paris. On their return they played a major role in the intellectual life of the capital and were keen supporters of the Surrealist, Dadaist and Abstract art movements. In 1924 she founded the Atelier Simultane workshop in order to produce her printed fabrics and fashion garments. With the fashion furrier Jacques Heim, she participated in the International Exhibition of 1925. Throughout the 1920s she belonged to the small group of textile designers who had managed to obtain both international recognition and international customers. Among these customers were Bauhaus decorators and American artists. In 1930, after the Stock market crash, she decided to focus on painting.

Sonia Delaunay 1925 carpet, plate 3, Tapis et Tissus, L'art d'Aujourd'hui, No. 15, 1929. The Carpet Index Library

In 1966, with the assistance of the Parisian editor Jacques Damase, she began to design carpets again which were subsequently exhibited in art galleries throughout Europe. The major event in her career during this period was that held in 1970 with the exhibition of the La Demeure gallery, see catalogue Tapis et Oeuvres Graphiques.

The influence that the Delaunay couple had on the world of art and fashion is inestimable, but as to floor covering, their influence was much reduced as they produced few carpets and direct followers of their style were limited, the main one being Marguerite Dubuisson.

Nevertheless, the carpet called 1925 is worth mentioning as it was produced and presented several times during the century.

It was first designed for the Delaunay's Parisian apartment, 19 Boulevard Malesherbes in 1924-25, to complement the interior decoration that had been created by Sonia. From the photos we can evaluate its measurements as being about 10ft x 10ft. The original drawing is most probably a fabric that was adapted into becoming a carpet. This rug, or a second copy, was used as a prop in the decoration of the 1926 film Le Vertige by Marcel L'Herbier. It was also shown to the public at the booth of the decorator Muratore for the 1927 Salon des Artistes Decorateurs. Finally, it was reproduced on plate 3, see the illustration above, in the folio presented by Sonia Delaunay in 1929 called Tapis et Tissus (Carpets and Fabrics), from the collection L'art d'Aujord'hui No.15, which contains only four plates by the artist. It seems that the carpet is now in the collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs with other furniture from her apartment, but is currently not visible to the public.

in 1967 the design was slightly changed and adapted by Jacques Damase for a new edition with a smaller reference size of 6.5ft x 6.5ft. The title of the carpet 1925 is then specified within the different catalogues. The collection that then toured Europe was hand woven in Caceres, Spain by Fabrica de Alfombras y Tapices de Santa Marta de Magasca which used a local weaving technique. The number of units sold is unknown.

It is possible that this smaller design was again produced in the late 1970s and 1980s by the Gallery Artcurial in Paris, and was produced using a tufted method by Pinton in Aubusson. In the company's catalogue, produced in the 1990s, this carpet was no longer mentioned, even though other designs were still available.

Written by Jean Manuel de Noronha


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