We Greet You, Gentle Rousseau

Rousseau’s grave with poem by Apollinaire

 
 

“We greet you

Gentle Rousseau, you hear us

Delaunay his wife Monsieur Quával and I

Let our baggage pass free through heaven’s gate

We’ll bring you brushes, paints and canvases

So that you can devote your sacred leisures

In the Real light to painting, as you did my portrait,

Painting the Face of the stars.”

Guillaume Apollinaire

1912

Translation of the inscription

 
 

The poet, writer and critic Guillaume Apollinaire was an influential figure in early twentieth-century artistic circles. For the last few years of Henri Rousseau’s life, Apollinaire was one of his staunchest supporters, and wrote in praise of his work. In 1910, shortly before Rousseau exhibited his last great painting The Dream 1910, he appealed to Apollinaire: ‘You will unfold your literary talent and avenge me for all the insults and abuse I have experienced.’ Rousseau made two versions of the double portrait of Apollinaire with his mistress Marie Laurencin. He grandly titled it The Muse Inspiring the Poet (1909).

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An Opera for Gertrude Stein

166_fa59f554bbd760a138fe07d997a74c06Apollinaire et ses amis, Marie Laurencin, 1907

 
 

Marie Laurencin:
[Taking a gulp of her wine.]
I want to know about her shaggy
hair. Did her mother put ribbons
there? I want to touch her long
black locks. What freedom
made her mock
clothing so? Guillaume, Cheri,
hand me my lorgnette.
[Guillaume pulls from his pocket a folded lorgnette, opens out the handle and offers it to Marie. She gives him her brush in exchange for the glasses.]

Gertrude, you magnifying glass, come
link arms that we may study this portrait
together.
[She staggers over to Gertrude and hooks her arm into Gertrude’s. Alice frowns and then takes Marie back to Guillaume.]

Monsieur Rousseau, I want to know
about her shaggy hair.

Pablo Picasso:
Yes, the way it snakes
to her voluptuous
knees.
[Pablo runs his hand down Fernande’s leg as he eyes Marie. Fernande, glaring first at Pablo and then Marie, goes to the table for a goblet of wine.]

Guillaume Apollinaire:
[oblivious to everyone except Marie:]
And her thighs,
her calves!
Who or what
does she
love?

Henri Rousseau:
She loves her mother.

Guillaume:
[Suddenly pulled to his senses.]
You’ve got to be kidding.
Guess her mother doesn’t sit
at the gaming tables all day.
[He takes a goblet and drinks.]

Henri:
[More earnestly:]
She loves her mother.

Gertrude Stein:
Just like me,
having the buttons
to prove it.

Leo Stein:
Buttons?
Leave Mother out of this!
It’s Alice, not Mother,
not me.

Marie
What about
the platypus?
Isn’t the pink-winged
bird a bit like us?
[Drinks and then throws down her goblet.]

Everyone
What?
What?
What is a genius?

Pablo
Henri, come sit
on the throne
I’ve made for you.
[Pablo escorts Henri to the throne.]
The legs are uneven,
the arms a bit cracked.

Marie
Yes, do, Monsieur Rousseau,
before the candle wax melts
and ruins the floor for dance.
[Marie holds her arms out and spins, avoiding the broken goblet.]

Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On

First Act

Opera composed by William C. Banfield to a libretto by the poet Karren LaLonde Alenier

 
 

On March 10, 2002 the music from act II of Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On was workshopped presented under the sponsorship of the National Opera Association and Opera Index at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City in a program entitled New American Opera Previews: From Page to Stage.

Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On–three portraits of Gertrude Stein’s life and work from 1908-1944 as researched and embellished by poet-librettist Karren Alenier. Piano and voice score are completed. Music might be characterized as a fusion of new classical music and jazz. Presented by Encompass New Opera Theatre and Nancy Rhodes, artistic director.

Between The Fauvists and The Cubists

Portrait of Jean Cocteau, Marie Laurencin, 1921

 
 

MARIE LAURENCIN

Entre les fauves et les cubistes
Prise au piège, petite biche
Une pelouse, des amémies
Pâlissent le nez des amies
France, jeune fille nombreuse
Clara d’Ellébeuse
Sophie Fichini
Bientôt la guerre sera finie
Pour que se cabre un doux bétail
Aux volets de votre éventail
Vive la France!

Jean Cocteau

 
 

__________________________

 
 

“Between the Fauvists and the Cubists
caught in the trap, little doe
a lawn, anaemic afflictions
pale the noses of the friends
France, numerous young lady
Clara d’Ellébeuse
Sophie Fichini
Soon the war will be over
for a gentle cattle to rear up
in the winglets of your fan
Long live France!”

A Rose is Something

 
 

“Les rosiers ont des roses—

C’est toujours la meme que je vois.

Une rose, c’est quelque chose.

La vie pour les femmes est si difficile.”
 
 

________________________________

 
 

“Rose bushes have roses—

It is always the same one that I see.

A rose is something.

Life for women is so difficult.”

 

Marie Laurencin

Poetic fragment from Le Carnet des Nuits

1942

The Pursuit of A Specifically Feminine Aesthetic

Marie Laurencin c. 1912, Paris

 
 

Laurencin photographed by Carl van Vechten, 1949

 
 

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.

 
 

Réunion à la campagne (Apollinaire et ses amis), 1919

 
 

Les jeunes filles (Jeune Femmes, Young Girls), 1910-11

 
 

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne, 1913

 
 

Portrait de Mademoiselle Chanel, 1923

 
 

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.