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Femme tenant des fleurs ou le Printemps

Femme tenant des fleurs ou le Printemps
signed and dated 'Marie Laurencin 1935' (upper right)
oil on canvas
24 x 19 1/2 in. (61 x 50 cm.)
Painted in 1935
Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris.
The Leicester Galleries, London.
George-Day, Marie Laurencin. Trente-deux reproductions en héliogravures, Paris, 1947 (illustrated; titled 'Muse').
D. Sutton, 'A Statesman's Collection', in Apollo, June 1969, London, no. 14, p. 466 (illustrated p. 465; titled 'Primavera').
D. Marchesseau, Marie Laurencin, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre, vol. II, Peintures, Céramiques, Œuvres sur papier, Paris, 1999, no. 601, p. 259 (illustrated).
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Lord Avon, January – March 1966, p. 5 (titled 'Primavera'; with incorrect dimensions).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Benedict Winter
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Lot Essay

'She has made herself a style which looks like no one else’s in ancient and modern painting.’ (G. Apollinaire, ‘Les Peintresses, chroniques d'art’, in Le Petit Bleu, Paris, 5 April 1912). As the words of poet Guillaume Apollinaire demonstrate, Marie Laurencin created a unique style of her own, which shines through this mature piece from 1935.

Famously known for depicting a certain kind of timeless feminine beauty, Marie Laurencin focused on the depiction of women - in groups or solo portraits - throughout her career. Whilst referring to historical canons of female beauty, she developed her own personal, idealised and modern vision of it. This is one of the numerous reasons why contemporary artists and art critics embraced her work (in particular Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the 1900s), at a time where few women artists would be acknowledged by their peers.

The recognition of her artistic practice during her lifetime is a further testament to Marie Laurencin’s outstanding position in the history of women artists. Although she was acquainted with key figures of the avant-garde and had exhibited in a series of Fauvist and Cubist group shows during the 1910s, her independent personality enabled her to develop a highly personal style, thereby distinguishing herself from the influences of more renowned artistic groups. Her passion for the female figure led her to become an influential portraitist in the Paris of the roaring twenties, as she was commissioned to paint portraits of such well-known women as Coco Chanel or Suzie Solidor. Not only did the critics praise her work, but she was financially supported by the market too - being represented by Matisse’s and Picasso’s dealer Paul Rosenberg, and trusted by many important collectors, including Gertrude Stein and Helena Rubinstein.

Her style, characterised by the pursuit of the ‘feminine soul’, proposes an ideal vision of female beauty to the viewer. Her brush emphasises the delicacy of women whom she often depicts as light creatures surrounded by nature. Marie Laurencin’s fascination for female beauty and her recurrent use of natural features increasingly becomes visible in her 1930s portraits.

Woman with a bouquet of flowers or Le Printemps is a perfect case in point. Painted at the height of her career - during the interwar period where she was awarded the French Legion d’honneur and was featured as the third most influential women in France by Vue magazine - it pictures a very elegant, yet anonymous woman. Marie Laurencin’s pure depiction of a semi - nude woman in precious and elegant attire, along with an animal, reminds us of classical art history figures, notably that of the mythological goddess Diana. The freshness of her complexion and the pink tones of her clothes allude to the blossoming of spring, embodied by the delicate bouquet of flowers she holds in her left hand.

Facing us in a nonchalant pose, this woman glances away from us melancholically, with her gaze reminiscent of that of Coco Chanel’s famous portrait painted by the artist in 1923 (now in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris). Like Chanel, the woman depicted by Marie Laurencin shows a unique level of elegance and refinement. Her exquisite hairstyle, composed of bright pearls and luminous ribbons, enlightens her face and draws our attention to her enigmatic gaze. Marie Laurencin structures the composition by arranging pieces of clothing in warm tones around the model – a rather unique palette for her work. The vibrant pink of her hair ribbon - shining like a delicate piece of satin or silk - softens her pale flesh, while her yellow cloth gently hides her nudity and adds depth to the composition by contrasting with the dark green of the background. Far from being a coincidence, the attention Marie Laurencin draws to female accessories and clothes might come from her studies at the Ecole des Arts décoratifs in Sèvres. Her knowledge of porcelain painting would also explain her taste for bright pink and pale tones - the flesh of this woman being as luminous and tender as porcelain. Her elegant pearl necklace and almost floating clothes also echo new creations of contemporary fashion designers, in particular those of her friend Paul Poiret. A dog – a feature which recurs in Marie Laurencin’s works – accompanies the model, adding to the contemplative and mysterious atmosphere of the portrait as the animal looks in the opposite direction of hers.

Rendering a sense of timeless beauty and colourful harmony, this portrait perfectly illustrates Marie Laurencin’s constant search for her ideal of feminine elegance and charm.

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