French painter, stage designer and illustrator. After studying porcelain painting at the Sèvres factory (1901) and drawing in Paris under the French flower painter Madelaine Lemaire (1845–1928), in 1903–4 she studied at the Académie Humbert in Paris, where she met Georges Braque and Francis Picabia. In 1907 she first exhibited paintings at the Salon des Indépendants, met Picasso at Clovis Sagot’s gallery and through Picasso was introduced to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Laurencin and Apollinaire were soon on intimate terms, their relationship lasting until 1912.
Laurencin became a regular associate of the painters and poets associated with the Bateau-Lavoir, who included Picasso, Braque, Gris, Max Jacob and André Salmon. She was present at the banquet given by Picasso in honour of Henri Rousseau in 1908 and produced the first version of Apollinaire and his Friends (1908; Baltimore, MD, Mus. A.) in a highly simplified style, in which she pictured herself and the poet with Picasso and his companion Fernande Olivier. Both this and a larger version with additional figures (1909; Paris, Pompidou) show the influence of proto-Cubist works by Picasso and Braque, with their flat areas of colour, shallow space and references to ‘primitive’ art. Despite Apollinaire’s claim that Laurencin was a Cubist, it is only to these very early Cubist experiments that her work bears any similarity. This influence, also apparent in such works as the Young Women (1910–11; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.), disappeared completely after World War I. Her paintings were shown in 1912 with those of Robert Delaunay at the Galerie Barbazanges in Paris, and seven of her works were included in the Armory Show held in New York in 1913.
During World War I Laurencin took refuge in Spain where, feeling painfully exiled, she produced few works. She met Picabia in Barcelona and contributed several poems to the magazine 391, although she otherwise had little involvement with Dada. Her return to Paris by 1921 was marked by the publication of L’Eventail (Paris, 1922), a collection of poems by Max Jacob, André Breton and others written in her honour. She soon arrived at her mature style, characterized by black-eyed figures painted in pale blues, roses and greens, as in Women with a Dog (c. 1923; Paris, Mus. Orangerie). Her portrait of Baroness Gourgand with Black Mantilla (1923; Paris, Pompidou) marked the beginning of her popularity as a society portrait painter in the 1920s and 1930s. Other portraits included those of Jeanne André Salmon (1923; Paris, Mus. A. Mod. Ville Paris) and Coco Chanel (1923; Paris, Mus. Orangerie), which was rejected by its sitter. Laurencin was commissioned by Serge Diaghilev in 1923 to provide costume and set designs for Francis Poulenc’s ballet Les Biches; later commissions for stage designs included those for Alfred de Musset’s comedy A Quoi rêvent les jeunes filles in 1928 and for the ballet Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe in 1945. For the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925 Laurencin collaborated with André Groult on the Chambre de Madame.
Laurencin’s painting style remained constant throughout the 1930s and, apart from a number of flower pieces and occasional landscapes, she continued to paint portrait and figure works, such as The Rehearsal (1936; Paris, Pompidou). She painted male figures only on rare occasions in portraits of friends such as André Salmon (1942; Paris, Pompidou). From c. 1940 her painting showed a decline in the handling of form and colour, the colours becoming much brighter. Throughout her life Laurencin illustrated books, the first being Louise Faure-Favier’s Les Choses qui seront vieilles (Paris, 1919). Later books included editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (Paris, 1930) and of Paul Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes (Paris, 1944).
From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press