Friday, October 5, 2012

Adult Education

I have long considered myself an art lover, beginning in college with coursework in art history and time volunteering in my university's wonderful on-campus museum, the Georgia Museum of Art. Despite majoring in journalism, I briefly toyed with the idea of attending the Sotheby's Institute of Art after graduation to build upon my developing passion. (Sometimes I still fantasize about enrolling!)

And of course now, as an interior designer, I am fortunate to work with art in varying capacities -- selecting for clients and building on and around existing pieces in their collections -- so I like to think I am fairly knowledgeable about "mainstream" artwork.

Imagine my surprise and delight when volunteering last week in my daughter's first-grade art class to discover an artist who, by all accounts, I should have been familiar with: Sonia Delaunay. The teacher posted images of her work as part of the class's ongoing study of jazz and art's relation to it (!), and many of the pieces felt as if they could have been pulled directly from a contemporary gallery. The colors and shapes are bold and energetic, yet there is also a wonderful sense of whimsy about them that I find so compelling.

Much of her work focuses on the exploration of pattern and color and clearly predicts her later foray into textile design:

A contemporary of Picasso and Braque, Delaunay was married to the better-known painter Robert Delaunay (though I prefer Mme. Delaunay's work, myself). I find the story of her life to be fascinating and would encourage you to read more about it; her husband and collaborator, by all accounts her great love, died more than 38 years before Sonia, and she went on to reinvent herself many times over -- as a textile and costume designer, car decorator (!), and clothing-design collaborator with the likes of Coco Chanel and Lanvin.
An example of her fabric design...don't you love it?

Delaunay designed for the wives of celebrated architects and designers Gropius, Breuer and Mendelsohn.

Delaunay with the Citroen she decorated. I want one!

Of her life Delaunay said the following: "I have led three lives: one for Robert [her husband], one for my son and grandsons, a shorter one for myself. I don't regret not having given myself more attention. I really did not have the time."

I love that my first-grade daughter's art teacher inspired this art-history lesson for me. A great reminder of how much there will always be to learn, no matter how old we get.

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