Monday, April 1, 2013


Marie Laurencin "Self Portrait at the Easel"  1906  location unknown

Marie Laurencin (1883-1956) was a french artist who once described her own work as "between a flutter and a coo." She was born in Paris, an illegitimate child whose mother was reputedly of Creole extraction. Laurencin herself attributed her "frizzy hair, full lips and almond eyes" to this heritage, and openly examined and celebrated her own beauty in almost innumerable self-portraits throughout her life.

Laurencin initially began training as a porcelain painter at the Sèvres Factory. She continued her art training with private lessons from painter Madeleine Lemaire, following this up by attending the Academie Humbert, where she met Georges Braque and Francis Picabia. She was an instant hit with the boys of the Bateau-Lavoir, an avant-garde group of poets and painters.  She was essentially the only female artist who was accepted by this exclusive group of male artists who were characterized by their almost hyper-male swagger and machismo. In contrast, Laurencin embodied a distinctly feminine aesthetic, which apparently posed no threat while at the same time charming her male friends with the delicate "fairy wand in her brush."(André Salmon.) In 1907 Picasso introduced her to poet Guillaume Appollinaire with whom she became romantically involved for several years.  She was thought of as his muse, a role commemorated by Henri Rousseau in his painting of the couple entitled, rather prosaically, La Muse Inspirant le Poète (The Muse Inspiring the Poet.) One of Apollinaire's best known poems, Marie, was written to commemorate their relationship.

Laurencin showed her work frequently in Paris and beyond, with several of her pieces being included in the World's Fair in New York City in 1913. Laurencin married a German national in 1914 and left France during the First World War, returning to Paris after her divorce in 1920. She continued working as a painter and printmaker and also branched into book illustration and set designing. Her work is in major museums around the world and the Marie Laurencin Museum opened in Japan in 1983, commemorating the 100th year of her birth.

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