Marie Laurencin was born in Paris in 1883 to Pauline Laurencin and Alfred Toulet, a man about whom she knew nothing until much later in her life. At the age of eighteen, at the behest of her mother, she began to study porcelain painting in Sevres, the leading porcelain factory in Europe at the time. In 1903 she returned to Paris and enrolled in the modest Académie Humbert to study art where, under the influence of her friend Georges Braque, decided to concentrate on oil painting. It was through Braque that Laurencin befriended many of the Montmarte artists, poets, writers, and musicians, including Ferdinand Leger, Juan Gris, Marcel Duchamp, and a young Pablo Picasso. It was during this period Laurencin also met the poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire, who would become both her lover and her greatest advocate in the press.
In 1912 Laurencin collaborated on the Maison Cubiste with Duchamp-Villon and André Mare, a project which represented her first foray into the field of design. She exhibited at the landmark Armory Show of 1913 in New York, wrote poetry, made book illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, designed sets for Diaghilev's Ballets Russe and the Comédie Francaise in 1928. She was also a costume designer, interior designer, and lithograper in addition to painting.
Among Laurencin’s commissioned portraits is her portrait of Coco Chanel made in 1923. Her work in pastels and curvilinear designs stood as a check to the modernism of the day and defined her work as a feminine alternative to the arrogant, somewhat brash, and linear Cubism of her peers. Her works bespoke the image of the modern woman in the Art-Deco inspired Jazz Age of Paris and provided a lucrative income during the 1940’s, as her works were in great demand. On June 6, 1956 Marie Laurencin died of a heart attack and was buried according to her wishes in Père Lachaise Cemetery dressed in a white dress with a rose in her hand and the letters from her first lover Guillaume Apollinaire next to her heart.
A classic image by one of the most intriguing female artists in early twentieth century Europe, Ophélieembodies the best of what you find in almost every work she executed, a lovely female form, simplified, stylized and elegant, rendered with soft fluid colors. A very French painter, Laurencin creates her nation’s flag out of her figure, the colors blue, white, and red radiating across the canvas. Remarkably feminine with its curvilinear lines, we see the influence of portrait miniatures akin to the Rococo designs to which Laurencin was exposed at the Sevres Porcelain Factory where she first apprenticed in 1903. It is important to note that Laurencin is not interested in creating a likeness or portrait of a particular person, rather her sitters are always an ideal of woman, rather to create an allegory that transcends time and place. Though Laurencin was closely involved with most important painters of the time such Braque, Leger or Delaunay, she maintained her own identity as an artist.
Private collection Paris 1952
Dominion Gallery, Montreal, Canada
Private collection Montreal, Canada until 2022