Around 1905 Georges Braque took Marie Laurencin to the Bateau Lavoir, Picasso's famously run-down studio on Rue Ravignan. Laurencin and Braque had both studied at the Académie Humbert. Laurencin originally aimed to paint on porcelain but Braque had the full measure of his colleague's talent and persuaded her to broaden her horizons. On Rue Ravignan she found herself in an environment where she could thrive, where painting and literature mingled freely in a state, Picasso said, of permanent cross-fertilization, and at a moment when Fauvism was about to be supplanted by Cubism. Soon Guillaume Apollinaire was devoting to her an important chapter in his The Cubist Painters: Aesthetic Meditations ( Peintres Cubistes: Méditations Esthétiques). Married to a German baron she fled France during World War I and lived in Spain, where she met Picabia among others, to return to Paris in 1920.
Laurencin's first canvases are sharper in tone than her later work. From her Ravignan period she left some paintings of real quality which also record the Bateau Lavoir dwellers, famously Picasso and Fernande Olivier, his mistress. Laurencin would enlarge on this composition by grouping together Picasso, Olivier (who wrote Picasso and his Friends ( Picasso et ses Amis)), the poet Marguerite Gillot, the poet Maurice Chevrier, Guillaume Apollinaire and André Salmon. The Pont Mirabeau, dear to Apollinaire, can be seen in the background. During her time at Ravignan she also produced burin engravings and woodcuts inspired by fables and romantic street songs.
Laurencin had found her style. She became a painter of doe-like girls, merging realism and fantasy like some poets of her generation. Some see Eugène Carrière's influence in her early works, yet her palette shows much more distinct shading. Laurencin created this unique palette, rich in colours chosen for their softness, the full range of which she explored, deftly and firmly stressing tonalities. Famous among her works are the following: Guitar, Child with Violin, Princess, Sirens, Portrait of Jeannot, Portrait of René Dalize, Portrait of Marcel Jouhandeau and Portrait of André Salmon. She also illustrated many books: Marie Laurencin's Fan ( L'Éventail de Marie Laurencin), a collection of poems written for her by writer friends, The Attempt at Love ( La Tentative Amoureuse) and The Poems of André Walter ( Les Poésies d'André Walter) by André Gide, books by Jacques de Lacretelle, André Salmon, Paul Morand, Louise Faure-Favier and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Laurencin also pioneered new approaches to theatre set designing, memorably so in the Cocteau and Milhaud collaboration Does ( Les Biches) for the Ballets Russes in 1924, and What Do Girls Dream Of? ( À Quoi Rêvent les Jeunes Filles?) for the Comédie Française in 1928, even providing themes for the ballet.
She exhibited for the first time in 1907 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. In 1912 she showed her work with Robert Delaunay at the Galerie Barbazangues and contributed to the decoration of the Cubist house for the Salon d'Automne. In 1937 at the Petit Palais, Laurencin provided an exemplary sample of her work, including Portrait (1904), Portrait of a Young Woman in a Pink and Black Hat, two canvases executed in 1908 and 1909 and both entitled Guillaume Apollinaire and his Friends (referring to the Picasso circle), Flowers, Two Sisters, Marie Laurencin in Blue (1936), Game of Badminton, Flower Pot, Blue Angel (1929), Young Girls with a Mandolin, Portrait of Madame C. P., Artist and Model, Portrait of Anne-Françoise Mare and Pot and Lemons. In 2002 she featured in the exhibition Women of Montparnasse ( Elles de Montparnasse) at the Musée du Montparnasse in Paris, chronicling the emancipation of female artists between the wars. In 1994 the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny presented a retrospective of her work.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Baltimore (MA): Group of Artists (1908)
London (Tate Collection): Portraits (Marie Laurencin, Cecilia de Madrazo and the Dog Coco) (1915, oil on canvas); The Fan (c. 1919, oil on canvas)
Paris (MNAM-CCI): Apollinaire and his Friends (1909); Woman with a Dove (1919); Portrait of Baroness Gourgaud in a Pink Coat (1923); Portrait of Baroness Gourgaud in a Black Mantilla (1924); Rehearsal (1936); Heads of Two Women; Princesse de Clèves; Portrait of a Woman in Red; Young Girls
Paris (Prints Collection): Pantomime (1922, etching)
Tateshina (Mus. Marie Laurencin)