Marie Laurencin was introduced to Picasso and his circle at the Bateau-Lavoir through Braque's intervention around the time of her artistic debut at the Salon des Indépendants in the autumn of 1907. Her involvement with the the artistic and literary group surrounding Picasso at the birth of cubism undoubtedly had a strong influence on her aesthetic but, despite exhibiting with the cubists in room 41 at the 1911 Salon and being repeatedly referred to in reviews as part of the group, Laurencin's interpretation of the movement remained entirely personal. Hence, while the complex planar construction of her 1912 work, La poétesse Marguerite Gillot recalls something of Picasso's ambitious early cubist experiments, the overriding curvilinear forms give the painting something of a softer, more seductive character.
The poet Marguerite Gillot also appears in Laurencin's 1908 Apollinaire et ses amis. The first version of the work, begun soon after Laurencin's introduction into the Bateau-Lavoir circle, depicted Apollinaire surrounded by a group which included herself, Picasso and Fernande Olivier. This work was purchased by Gertrude Stein, Laurencin's first major sale. A year later she produced the second version, adding Marguerite Gillot, the poet Maurice Cremnitz and, as a tribute to her patronage, Stein. This version belonged to Apollinaire himself, and hung above his bed in the apartment on the boulevard Saint-Germain where he lived from 1913 until his death, when it was given to the Musée National d'Art Moderne.
1912, when the present work was painted, was a year of intense activity for Laurencin. As well as collaborating with Raymond Duchamp-Villon and André Mare on their Maison Cubiste, she participated in the Section d'Or exhibition at the Galerie la Boëtie with Léger, Duchamp, Picabia, Delaunay, Lhote and Marcoussis and was also preparing for an exhibition at the Galerie Barbazanges with Robert Delaunay, which included La poétesse Marguerite Gillot. The following year, this work was exhibited in the infamous 1913 Armory Show in New York, Boston and Chicago, which introduced the European avant-garde to America and famously and scandalously included Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.