An Essay on Sonia Delaunay and her Jewishness
Sonia Delaunay is one of the most important artists of the early twentieth century, whose contribution to European Modernism was fundamental, if not always fully acknowledged in its own right. She is known for translating her experiments via painting into the realm of fashion, interior design and crafts and, thus, consciously transcending the boundaries between fine and applied art. The focus within mainstream art history has been her relationship with her husband Robert Delaunay. Tom Sandqvist shifts this focus on her Jewish roots and sheds a light on the influence of growing up in the typical Eastern European shtetl, which has not attracted any special attention in the analysis of Delaunay’s art. Tom Sandqvist reflects on the impact of Judaism on Sonia Delaunay’s œuvre, with a special focus on her early contributions to Simultanism and Orphism within the interwar Parisian Avant-Garde.
In the Shtetl, in the Vast Crowd of Russia, and on the Karelian Isthmus
The distance is about two hundred miles as the crow flies from Lemberg to Chełm. However, when he, commissioned by the Metropolitan Magazine, was about to make precisely for Chełm in the midst of the Great War in 1915. From the capital of the Austrian province of Galicia at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, the city transformed into the Polish town of Lwów, thereafter Lviv by the peace treaty in 1920. The city boasting today about its reputation of being the most important industrial centre of the whole Western Ukraine. Indeed, as he would go from Lemberg to Chełm in the neighbourhood of the Russian Novgorod, the American adventurer, left-winger, and war correspondent John Reed – soon to be world famous for his survey of the Bolshevik revolution in Petrograd thanks to his book Ten Days that Shook the World – was forced to share his train compartment with a chain smoking, silent young Russian lieutenant and a crotchety, badly wounded general on their way to Petrograd. In more than a whole day and night before he, moreover, had to make a stop of nine hours in Rovno in Volhynia. This was a town – or rather only a village – located in the heart of the Russian Jewish Pale of Settlement which he would never forget because of its character of a “typical” Eastern Jewish shtetl. In which he was expertly guided by an English-speaking Russian subofficer called Miroshnikov, whom he had run into in the...
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