Marie Laurencin (October 31, 1883 – June 8, 1956) was a French painter, poet and printmaker. She was born in Paris, where she was raised by her mother and lived much of her life. At 18, she studied porcelain painting in Sèvres. She then returned to Paris and continued her art education at the Académie Humbert, where she changed her focus to oil painting.
Disciple of Henri Matisse, during the early years of the 20th century, Laurencin was an important figure in the Parisian avant-garde. A member of both the circle of Pablo Picasso, and Cubists associated with the Section d’Or, such as Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Henri le Fauconnier and Francis Picabia, exhibiting with them at the Salon des Indépendants (1910-1911) and the Salon d’Automne (1911-1912). She became romantically involved with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and has often been identified as his muse. In addition, Laurencin had important connections to the salon of the American expatriate and famed lesbian writer Natalie Clifford Barney. She had heterosexual and lesbian affairs.
During the First World War, Laurencin left France for exile in Spain with her German-born husband, Baron Otto von Waëtjen, since through her marriage she had automatically lost her French citizenship. The couple subsequently lived together briefly in Düsseldorf. After they divorced in 1920, she returned to Paris, where she achieved financial success as an artist until the economic depression of the 1930s. During the 1930s she worked as an art instructor at a private school. She lived in Paris until her death.
Laurencin’s works include paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints. She is known as one of the few female Cubist painters, with Sonia Delaunay, Marie Vorobieff, and Franciska Clausen. While her work shows the influence of Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who was her close friend, she developed a unique approach to abstraction which often centered on the representation of groups of women and female portraits. Her work lies outside the bounds of Cubist norms in her pursuit of a specifically feminine aesthetic by her use of pastel colors and curvilinear forms. Laurencin’s insistence on the creation of a visual vocabulary of femininity, which characterized her art until the end of her life, can be seen as a response to what some consider to be the arrogant masculinity of Cubism.