Artists & Designers

Marie Laurencin (French, 1883–1956)

Born in 1883 and raised by her mother in Paris, Marie Laurencin began her artistic career by studying porcelain painting at the Sèvres factory in 1902 and drawing from the French flower painter Madeleine Lemaire. From 1904 she attended the Académie Humbert, where she changed her vocation to oil painting and became good friends with Georges Braque and Georges Lepape. Laurencin first exhibited paintings at the Salon des Indépendants in 1907—the annual exhibition founded in the 1880s by avant-garde painters unhappy with the rigid and exclusive politics of the traditional Parisian Salon. Shortly thereafter she met Pablo Picasso, who in turn introduced her to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Laurencin and Apollinaire would be romantically involved until 1912. She became a member of the artistic circle associated with the Bateau-Lavoir, which included the Cubists Picasso, Braque, and Juan Gris. Her early works, which show the influence of Cubism, were exhibited alongside Robert Delaunay’s at the Galerie Barbazanges in 1912 and at the Armory Show in New York in 1913.

In 1914, Laurencin married Baron Otton von Waëtjen and, due to his German nationality, spent World War I exiled in Spain, where her production slowed. Following their divorce, she moved back to Paris in 1921 and developed her mature, signature style: greatly simplified depictions of women with black, almond-shaped eyes rendered in pale pastel tones. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, she enjoyed great success as a society portraitist, completing one of her most famous works in 1923 of Coco Chanel, who subsequently rejected it. Laurencin’s figure paintings remained popular until the 1940s, but her production slowed again during World War II when her apartment was confiscated by the Germans. After the war, Laurencin’s vision faltered, as did interest in her paintings as new artistic movements emerged. She died in 1956 at the age of 72 due to cardiac arrest and bequeathed her property to her adoptive daughter, Suzanne Moreau-Laurencin.

Excerpt from

Kelsey Martin and Nicole Myers, DMA exhibition text Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism, 2018.

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