Influenced by artists and poets alike, the work of Marie Laurencin combines both realism and fantasy. Encouraged by her friends Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Laurencin developed a personal style and fresh, refined palette. Her paintings are almost exclusively of graceful, mysterious women frequently bedecked with pearls, playing a musical instrument, or accompanied by faun.
Although originally trained to be a decorator of porcelain at the Sevres factory, Laurencin took lessons at the Académie Humbert in the early 1900s, and in 1907 was introduced by Picasso to the poet Guillaume Apollinaire with whom she had a five-year affair. During this period, she encountered the most famous artists and writers of the day. Laurencin’s painting, Group of Artists, depicting Apollinaire, Picasso, and his mistress Fernande Olivier, as well as herself, was purchased by Gertrude Stein in 1908. In 1907, Laurencin gave her debut at the Salon des Indépendants, followed by a large exhibition at Barbazanges' in 1912, and another at P. Rosenberg's in 1920.
The failure of her relationship with Apollinaire in 1913 signaled the end of her Cubist period but she still maintained strong ties with her artist friends. In the same year, she met the art dealer Paul Rosenberg, and joined Matisse, Picasso, and Braque as one of his artists, a relationship that was to last until 1940.
Following a brief exile in Spain, Laurencin returned to Paris in 1921, and for the next three decades continued to paint, write poetry, and design sets and costumes for the theatre and Ballet Russes. She became a popular society portrait painter and her sitters included Coco Chanel, Helena Rubinstein, Lady Cunard, and Madame André Derain. She also illustrated books, such as André Gide's La Tentative Amoureuse and Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Marie Laurencin died in Paris in 1956; she was buried in a white dress holding a rose in one hand and a love letter from Guillaume Apollinaire in the other.
Our painting, Favorite, is an excellent example of Laurencin’s style, and clearly displays her keen interest in portraiture. Laurencin, as usual, has chosen a refined and beguiling young woman as her subject. The woman portrayed here wears a dark, reddish-pink, beribboned headpiece topped with a plume and a few pearls. A large rose pinned to the front of her dress also serves as decoration; such accoutrement seems to belie the fact that she is certainly a woman of some privilege. Her intensely dark eyes gaze out at the viewer, while a slight smile plays around the corners of her lips; it is a difficult expression to discern, seeming at turns both winsome and mysterious. The backdrop behind the young woman adds to this sense of mystique, as it seems more an abstracted idea of a background, rather than an actual place. Laurencin’s bold brushstrokes create thickness and texture, while adding a sense of movement to a very sedentary scene. An overall palette of grays is enlivened by the addition of a few, rich turquoise, burgundy, blue, and delicate pink shades. The tension created by this contrast enhances a certain sense of mystery that this beautiful and nuanced painting seems to create.