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 Marie Laurencin  (1883 - 1956)

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Lived/Active: France/Spain      Known for: ethereal female figure painting

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from Auction House Records.
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Marie Laurencin, intimate of Braque, Picasso, Matisse and Appollinaire, was born in 1883.  She held a celebrated place in the early part of the 20th century during a period when Art exploded with genius.  She lived in the Montmartre District of Paris and became part of the circle revolving around the Steins. Though her early portraits show the imprint of the Fauves and Cubists, her romantic and delicate temperament asserted itself against these schools.

She was prim, conservative and always wore a kitchen apron when she painted. She had a celebrated love affair with Guilliame Appollinaire, great French modern critic, but was never able to marry him because of demands of her domineering mother.  Called the 'muse' by her fellow painters, her works are loved for their fragile beauty.  Though they may be feminine in subject and execution, the distortion of form and the simplicity of expression mark her for a Modern Master.

Girls, pretty girls, were the subject of practically all Laurencin's oils.  She painted girls in all kinds of poses and all had her personal mark, smooth young faces, pale skin and dark eyes.  Her early work was not easily accepted; it showed the influence of Toulouse-Lautrec and of cubism.  World War I took her out of the Paris circle for a while; she married a German painter, Otto von Waetjen, and they were forced to leave France.  They lived in Spain, then she got a divorce and returned to Paris.  In her later years, she became almost a hermit, although mothers with daughters in tow still came to her.  She died in 1956.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Time Magazine, July 21, 1952

Biography from Daphne Alazraki Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Influenced by artists and poets alike, the work of Marie Laurencin combines both realism and fantasy.  Encouraged by her friends Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Laurencin developed a personal style and fresh, refined palette.  Her paintings are almost exclusively of graceful, mysterious women frequently bedecked with pearls, playing a musical instrument, or accompanied by faun.

Although originally trained to be a decorator of porcelain at the Sevres factory, Laurencin took lessons at the Académie Humbert in the early 1900s, and in 1907 was introduced by Picasso to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire with whom she had a five-year affair.  During this period, she encountered the most famous artists and writers of the day.  Laurencin’s painting, Group of Artists, depicting Apollinaire, Picasso, and his mistress Fernande Olivier, as well as herself, was purchased by Gertrude Stein in 1908.  In 1907, Laurencin gave her debut at the Salon des Indépendants*, followed by a large exhibition at Barbazanges' in 1912, and another at P. Rosenberg's in 1920.

The failure of her relationship with Apollinaire in 1913 signaled the end of her Cubist* period but she still maintained strong ties with her artist friends.  In the same year, she met the art dealer Paul Rosenberg, and joined Matisse, Picasso, and Braque as one of his artists, a relationship that was to last until 1940.

Following a brief exile in Spain, Laurencin returned to Paris in 1921, and for the next three decades continued to paint, write poetry, and design sets and costumes for the theatre and Ballet Russes.  She became a popular society portrait painter, and her sitters included Coco Chanel, Helena Rubinstein, Lady Cunard, and Madame André Derain.  She also illustrated books, such as André Gide's La Tentative Amoureuse and Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Marie Laurencin died in Paris in 1956; she was buried in a white dress holding a rose in one hand and a love letter from Guillaume Apollinaire in the other.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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