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Marie Laurencin

French Painter, Poet, and Illustrator

Marie Laurencin Photo
Movements and Styles: Cubism, Salon Cubism

Born: October 31, 1883 - Paris, France

Died: June 8, 1956 - Paris, France

"Why should I paint dead fish, onions and beer glasses? Girls are so much prettier"

Summary of Marie Laurencin

Marie Laurencin played a significant role in negotiating female and lesbian identity in early-20th century modern art movements dominated by men. From early in life, Laurencin was predominantly interested in worlds in which women moved independently and peacefully, creating self-portraits and scenes featuring animals and women which were striking in their thematic consistency. Laurencin's name was made through her association with Cubism, exhibiting with the Section d'Or and in the Armory Show, but as a mature artist resisted dominant artistic movements. Laurencin developed her own aesthetic, favouring escapist imagery in pastel hues, that was at once decorative and radical in its embrace of feminine tropes. The artist, throughout her life, embraced the ambiguous and the ephemeral, creating a body of work that offers a confident and self-sufficient vision of female affection and creativity.

Key Ideas

Laurencin's images of female identity, often alluding to her own position as an artist or to spontaneous creative rituals such as dance or dress, created links between lesbian identity and creative fertility. Laurencin's paintings, drawings and prints consistently presented the possibility of escape into a world without men, constructed through visual tropes - such as pastel colors, scarves and animals - associated with the feminine.
Marie Laurencin created a style distinctively her own whilst expanding upon earlier periods and movements in both art and literature. She borrowed symbolic imagery, such as fans and deer, from Rococo painting, experimented with unusual color schemes as did the Impressionists and drew upon modern ideas of abstraction in stripping her images of extraneous detail. Her dreamlike sensibility, meanwhile, borrowed from Symbolist poetry.
Laurencin's paintings were unashamedly pleasurable, celebrating art as something that could serve a decorative purpose. She frequently collaborated on sets and costumes for ballet, along with interiors, and created images that prioritised the instinctive over the intellectual, serving as arguments for the value of beauty as the art world moved toward theory-dominated practice.
Detail from Réunion à la campagne (Apollinaire et ses amis) (1909) by Marie Laurencin

In post-war Paris, Marie Laurencin proved herself as both an eccentric artist and businesswoman. She charged higher prices for work which she found dull than for that which she enjoyed; she charged men double what she asked of women and charged brunettes more than blondes. But it did her legacy no harm and in 1983 the Musée Marie Laurencin opened in Japan - it was the first museum in the world devoted to a single female painter.

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