1892 - 1984
Marevna was the natural daughter of a Polish nobleman, Bronislav Stebelski, and of a Russian actress whose maiden name was Rosanovich and who married Aleksandr Vorob’ev. Mariya was raised by her father but took the name of her mother’s husband. She studied first in the Caucasus and in Moscow (particularly at the Strogonov school), and then in Italy, where she arrived in 1911.
In Capri, she met Maxim Gorky, who had a major influence on her development: he encouraged her to paint and came up with the pseudonym she used to sign her works ‘Marea Marevna,’ which means ‘daughter of the sea.’ In 1912, she met the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg in Paris, who introduced her to his artistic circle. She worked at the Académie Colarossi and at the Russian academy and had an affair with the Mexican painter Diego Rivera, by whom she had a daughter, Marika. Through Rivera, she met Picasso, Modigliani, Lhote, Juan Gris, Cocteau, and others. She left Rivera in 1921 and started producing decorative works that were even more strongly marked by Cubism. After World War II, she went to England where she published her memoirs.
Marevna was regarded as the first female painter to have joined a Cubist group. Her paintings, with their fresh and lively colours and simplified sets of straight and curved lines, are imbued with certain gentle humour. After 1918 and up until 1943, she turned towards Neo-Impressionist techniques in several portraits and landscapes in oil, watercolours or in stippled and engraved drawings. She later favoured the figure of the circle in her animated compositions, and worked on the construction of luminous forms that evoked an infinite, limitless world. She illustrated a collection of poems by Ilya Ehrenburg.
Marevna took part in collective exhibitions including: 1913, Salon des Indépendants, Paris; from 1919, Salon d’Automne, Paris; 1923, Salon des Tuileries, Paris; 1968, retrospective of Neo-Impressionism, Guggenheim Museum, New York; 1978, La Ruche exhibition, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris; 1981, The Other Half of the Avant-Garde, exhibition palace, Rome; and 1985, Marevna and the Artists of Montparnasse at Bourdelle Museum ( Marevna et les Montparnos au Musée Bourdelle), Musée Bourdelle, Paris. Posthumous collective exhibitions included: 2002, Women of Montparnasse ( Elles de Montparnasse) at the Musée du Montparnasse, an exhibition illustrating the emancipation of female artists between the two world wars; and 2003, Russian Paris 1910–1960, an exhibition of Russian art and artists in Paris organised by the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, also shown at the Von der Heydt museum in Wuppertal and later at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.
Solo exhibitions included: 1929, Galerie du Quotidien, Paris; 1936, Galerie Zborowski, Paris; 1952, Lefèvre Gallery, London; and 1958, Pushkin House, London. A major retrospective of her work went on display at the Petit Palais in Geneva in 1971. Posthumous exhibitions include: 1985, Rufino Tamayo museum, Mexico City; 1987, Petit Palais, Geneva; 1990, Cooling Galleries, London; and 1992, Marevna and Montparnasse, Wildenstein Gallery, London.1892