Marie Laurencin: Paintings & Biography

Instructor: Anne Butler

Anne has a bachelor's in K-12 art education and a master's in visual art and design. She currently works at a living history museum in Colorado.

Marie Laurencin was a French painter known for her pastel portraits of women and children. She is considered a Cubist artist, but also developed her own style. In this lesson, we'll explore the life and paintings of Marie Laurencin.

Early Life

Marie Laurencin was born on October 31, 1883 in Paris, France. She was raised by her mother who encouraged her artistic talent. When she was 18, her mother sent her to a school in Sevres, France to study porcelain painting. Here she learned to add decorations to porcelain objects such as bowls, plates, vases, and statues.

Upon her return to Paris, she enrolled in the Academie Humbert where she studied drawing. She also took drawing classes at the Paris municipal art school.

Marie Laurencin

Early Career

In 1907, Laurencin had her first solo art show. During this time, she became friends with fellow artist Pablo Picasso. He introduced her to other artists and poets, including the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Apollinaire considered Laurencin to be his muse; they lived together until 1912.

Her relationships with Picasso and Apollinaire led to many more friendships with people like with the writer Gertrude Stein. Stein was responsible for Laurencin's first sale in 1908. The painting was titled Group of Artists and featured Laurencin, Apollinaire, Picasso, and Picasso's mistress at the time Fernande Olivier. Laurencin would paint a larger version the next year, which she called Apollinaire and his Friends. This version added poets Marguerite Gillot and Maurice Cremnitz. She gave this version to Apollinaire. The portraits were done in Laurencin's angular yet flowing style.

Apollinaire and His Friends

In addition to portrait painting, Laurencin was also a poet. Apollinaire encouraged her writing. While exhibiting with her Cubist friends in 1911, Laurencin began to explore the work of book illustration. She would create illustrations for a book called Un Petit brevaire d'amour. This would lead to the illustrating of over 80 books.

In 1913, Laurencin and Apollinaire split up, and Laurencin began creating works that weren't inspired by her Cubist friends. She painted mostly women because she thought they were pretty. The portraits were often angular and in light pastel colors.

Young Girls

During 1913 Laurencin also met an art dealer named Paul Rosenberg. Rosenberg was a famous dealer who sold works from painters, such as Picasso and Henri Matisse. Laurencin entered into a contract with him that would last until 1940, when Rosenberg emigrated to New York.

Laurencin also met a man named Baron Otto von Waetjen in 1913. They would marry the next year. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 forced Laurencin and her German husband to leave France. They would travel to Spain and later Germany. Laurencin would hear of Apollinaire's death in 1918 while she was still in exile. Laurencin and von Waetjen would return to Paris in 1921, but would divorce that same year.

Mid and Late Career

The 1920s were a busy time for Laurencin. It was during this time that she began designing sets and costumes. Many of these were for ballets such as Les Biches for the Ballets Russes, a Parisian ballet company. She would also design sets for another company, Les Roses. Laurencin's pastel color palettes were perfect for ballets and their sets. Laurencin was quite successful as a designer, but she also continued painting portraits like that of fashion designer Coco Chanel.

In the 1930s, Laurencin taught at an art academy in Paris called Villa Malakoff. She would teach there for about four years.

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