National Museum of Women in the Arts
Marie Laurencin
October 31 1885 - June 08 1956
Photograph of Marie Laurencin, 1949, by Carl Van Vechten. Gelatin silver print. The Carl Van Vechten photograph collection. The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC, USA
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
mah-ree loh-rah(n)-suh(n)
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints, Painting, Textiles and clothing
Artistic Role(s):
Costume Designer, Designer, Etcher, Illustrator, Lithographer, Oil Painter, Portraitist, Printmaker, Set Designer
Artist's Biography:
Known for her paintings of women in airy pastel colors, Marie Laurencin’s insistence on maintaining her own unique style assisted her in achieving artistic celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. Although commonly described as merely an artist’s muse, Laurencin’s perseverance and achievements enabled her to transcend this passive role as she developed her career as an artist and designer.

Born in Paris in 1885, Laurencin’s artistic education began in 1902 at the École de Sèvres where she received training as a porcelain painter. Although not encouraged to pursue art, she was determined to become a painter and continued her studies at the Académie Humbert from 1903 to 1904. During the course of her education Laurencin became friends with Georges Braque who introduced the young Laurencin to his friends, a group of artists including Cubist painter Pablo Picasso and writer and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire.

She soon became romantically involved with Apollinaire and during the course of their affair, which lasted from 1907 to 1912, Apollinaire enjoyed a prolific period of poetry and art criticism, identifying Laurencin as his muse and a Cubist; however, among other Cubist artists, Laurencin found little encouragement. She struggled with identifying with the explosive ideas of this male-dominated artistic movement and instead of attempting to adopt the style of those around her, continued to paint almost Impressionistic images of women and children. Feeling marginalized as a female artist, Laurencin remained on the periphery. After ending her relationship with Apollinaire, Laurencin married another artist, Otto van Wätjen in 1912.

During World War I, Laurencin left Paris for Spain. In 1920, she returned to Paris where she began a successful career as a designer. Having divorced her husband in 1921, she began a prolific period designing sets and costumes for ballets and other performances, including Francis Poulenc’s ballet Les Biches. In addition, Laurencin continued to become more renowned for her paintings of fashionably dressed adolescent girls and idealized images of contemplative women. Despite the criticism that her rendering of all women’s faces was in her own likeness, her portraiture became highly sought after. Critics described Laurencin’s work as being quintessentially feminine; however, Laurencin’s persistence enabled her to develop her own distinct artistic identity.

Other Occupation(s):
Poet, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Académie Humbert, Paris, France (1903-1904) École de Sèvres, Paris, France (1902)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Otto van Wätjen friend of Georges Braque friend of Pablo Picasso friend of Francis Picabia friend of Douanier Rousseau friend of Henri Matisse friend of Juan Gris friend of Alice Bailly student of Madeleine-Jeanne Lemaire
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, Republic of France, Paris, France (1937) Government Commission, Exposition Universelle, Paris, France (1937)
Earliest exhibition:
Le Salon des Indépendants, Paris, France (1907)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Women and Books: Illustrators, Writers, Designers
Artist retrospective(s):
Marie Laurencin 1883-1956: Cent oeuvres des collections du Musée Marie Laurencin au Japon, La Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, Switzerland (1993-1994) Marie Laurencin: Artist and Muse, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, USA (1989)
Related places
Paris (died at)
Jeune fille á la guitare
Portrait of a Girl in a Hat