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#5WomenArtists – Marie Laurencin: ‘Woman with a Guitar’




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Marie Laurencin was born in Paris in 1885. Her love for painting came early when, as a child, she would try to capture her cat’s features, which she felt had the face of a woman. Today, she is mostly known for images of women depicted in delicate pastel colors. She painted mythological creatures, dancers, and actresses in an intentionally “feminine” style instigated by her belief that male and female art was intrinsically different. Laurencin made her professional debut at the 1902 Salon des Indépendants.

Laurencin’s relationship with Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 – 1918), a French poet, is what made her an emerging household name in the Parisian cultural scene. Apollinaire invited her into his circle of friends and introduced her to Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973), George Braque (1882 – 1963), André Derain (1880 – 1954), and Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954). She became Apollinaire’s muse and he championed her work, constantly defending Laurencin from critics who called her superficial. In 1908, Laurencin’s painting Group of Artists, which included Picasso and his model Fernande Olivier together with Apollinaire and herself, garnered the respect she deserved. The painting (now at the Baltimore Museum of Art) was bought by famed writer and passionate art collector Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946) for her Paris home gallery and became Laurencin’s first art sale. In addition to her paintings, Laurencin illustrated writings by Apollinaire and designed costumes and theatre sets, most notably for the Ballets Russes. She died in the French capital in 1956.

Marie Laurencin (French, 1885 – 1956), ‘Femme et Mandolin’ (‘Woman with a Guitar’), 1943, oil on canvas, 33 ¾ x 29 ⅜ in., Gift of Jack and Marcelle Bear in honor of John S. Bunker, AG.1995.2.1 © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Woman with a Guitar is a clear representation of her style. She loved to draw women in these dream-like tones of grey and blue. Here, the woman, dressed in a draped garment with a crown of leaves, can be interpreted as a modern muse.

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