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Marie  Marevna Vorobieva

Marie Marevna Vorobieva

1892 —1984

Marie Vorobieva - Stebelsky was a fascinating artist with a recognisable, striking style of painting and a bright, original personality, who began painting in the era of the famous Paris school, actively worked in the techniques of Cubism and Pointillism, and revolved in the most Bohemian circles of Paris among the most progressive artists and poets in the early XX century. She was drawn by Amadeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse expressed his admiration for her work, Ilya Ehrenburg and Maximilian Voloshin dedicated poems to her, and Diego Rivera was her mentor and partner for six years, as well as the father of her daughter. She signed her paintings with a fairy-tale pseudonym "Marevna", which means "the daughter of the sea", and which M. Gorky gave her when nineteen-year-old Vorobieva - Stebelsky visited him at Capri.

The artist was born on February 14, 1892, in the Kazan province, near Cheboksary, in the town now called the Mariinsky Posad (the centre of Chuvashia). Marevna was brought up by her father, an aristocrat of Polish origins, Bronislaw Stebelsky, who was in the public service as a Forester in Tiflis. Her mother, Maria Rosanovich (Vorobieva in marriage), a provincial actress, with Polish, Russian and Jewish roots, took the eldest daughter and left the younger in the care of her father. Marevna's childhood described in her memoirs has impressed her Paris' friends. She grew up in a big house with servants, which was filled with stuffed dead animals as her father was an avid hunter, she had a wild bear cub as her pet, her world was filled with forest spirits, witches, and beasts from the old nanny's tales. The cruelty of her father to his dogs and servants, loneliness and lack of maternal affection and love, unsuitable for a small child atmosphere - all this left its mark on the soul of the artist. Maximilian Voloshin wrote about the artist as follows: "This is a very clean, truthful by nature girl, but terribly broken and exhausted by her childhood, and the circumstances of life - homeless, nervous, sick...". However, she has retained a strong love of nature from her early childhood: "When I think about my childhood, I feel like I breathe again the aromas of the wild steppe, raw wood on the banks of the Volga and Kazanka, the smells of the endless forest, fallen leaves, autumn".

Marevna's father served in the Caucasus, in Tiflis, and from 1907 to 1908 she attended the Tiflis school of Fine Arts. Marevna's paintings of witches, devils, and monsters, inspired by her childhood and peculiar worldview, were regularly exhibited at school exhibitions. In 1910 Marevna was sent to study art in Moscow, in Stroganov State Academy. The capital's beauty struck the artist to the core. She visited museums and galleries and was a hardworking student, but the harsh winter often drove the vulnerable girl in bed with bronchitis. To continue her studies, Marevna was sent by her father to Rome, where the artist has quickly become fascinated with the ancient city. In 1911, she arrived on the island of Capri, wherein the colony of writers and artists met Gorky and got engaged to his adopted son, Yuri Andreevich.

After spending six idle months on Capri, the twenty-year-old artist has called off her engagement, and moved to Paris in 1912 to continue her artistic career. Yuri accompanied her and introduced the young artist to his father's friends: Maximilian Voloshin, Boris Savenkov, and Ilya Ehrenburg. Vorobieva - Stebelsky has quickly joined the legendary circle of artists and poets La Ruche in the Café Rotonde, among whom were Picasso, Braque, Rivera, Modigliani, Kisling, Apollinaire, Cocteau, Soutine, Leger, and many other distinguished characters. Marevna has settled in the Montparnasse quarter, and despite an active social life, did not forget about her painting and drawing classes at various academies, including the Academy of Maria Vasilyeva, l'Academie Zuluaga, l'Academie Zuluaga, and l'Academie Russe, where she met Soutine, Lipchitz, Orloff и Zadkine. Soutine and Zadkine later became one of her closest friends. The artist also studied under the guidance of the sculptor S. F. Bulakovsky in the Russian Academy. Ehrenburg introduced Marevna to Diego Rivera, with whom the artist had an affair lasting for six years. In the same period, Marevna became friends with Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, Kisling, Gris, Larionov, Goncharova, Cocteau, and others. On the threshold of the First World War in 1913, Marevna created her first oil paintings and watercolours in the Cubist style, thus taking place in history as one of the first women who followed this movement. When getting together with artists in the Rivera's art studio, Marevna was listening to the speeches of the eminent artists about the theories of Cezanne and Constructivism, as well as participating in the discussions on the matter of art. She was exhibiting her work at the Paris exhibitions such as the Salon des Tuileries (1912), Salon of Independent (1913), Autumn Salon (1919), café La Rotonde (1925), and in various galleries.

The death of her father in 1914 not only has brought a strong emotional shock, as Marevna had a deep attachment to her father, but also financial troubles as her father used to support her in material terms. Now she had to earn money only from the sales of her works, which at first was quite difficult. In the same year, Marevna visited Portofino, Biarritz and travelled through Spain. In 1919, as a result of their relationship with Rivera, Marevna gave birth to their daughter Marika, the future favourite student of Isidora Duncan and a famous dancer and charming actress. Around the same time, starting from the 1920s, Marevna's work was taking a shift from Cubist movement to Pointillism or Divisionism, inspired by the theories of G. Seurat. This phase of Neo-Impressionism in her work lasted approximately until 1943. However, despite the new passion, the work of Marevna has retained its geometric structure and linear composition. In 1921 Rivera left Paris and went back to Mexico. Marevna continued to paint, however, in order to improve the financial situation, she has engaged herself in applied arts - weaving. Fulfilling commissions for the famous fashion designer P. Poiret and cooperating with the fashion house "Irfe", the artist made sketches for fabrics, painted shawls, wove decorative belts by hand. Marevna even showed her decorative and applied works at the exhibition in Paris in 1925, in the Soviet pavilion. Paris fashion magazine "L'art vivant" wrote about it in 1927: "Marevna's Russian shawls are combined by their wildness, primitiveness and fashion… there is something vernal, spontaneous, free and honest in Marevna's creations, that pleases the eye and soul".

In 1936, Leopold Zborowski, an art dealer and discoverer of Modigliani, organised a large exhibition for Marevna in his gallery. In the same year, the artist and her daughter moved to the South of France (Nice, Juan-Les-Pins, Cannes), where she remained until 1948, that is, before her move to England. Until 1955, the artist lived in Puddletown, in West Dorset, and later settled in London, in Ealing, where she was creating her most mature and compelling works. In the 1960s, Marevna got significant interest from the public, and her works have become included in the most extensive art collections in the world. In part, this period of fame was caused by her memoirs, where she has described in detail lives of the Parisian artistic bohemia. During this period, in the 1960s and 1970s, Marevna created a grand series of portraits of her famous friends of youth from Montparnasse and large-scale stunning group portraits as well. Many of her works were bought by the Museum of Modern Art "Petit Palais" in Geneva. In 1977, at the festival Leicester, Marevna's works were shown at her solo exhibition together with the film "Marevna and Marika". Marevna was also exhibited in the foyer of the theatre Hammersmith, where Marika performed, in 1980. Other exhibitions with her participation include Lefevre gallery (London, 1952), Claude gallery (Paris, 1953), Guggenheim Museum (New York, 1968), Museum of Modern Art (Geneva, 1971). Vorobieva-Stebelsky died May 4, 1984, in London. 


Bibliography:

Воробьева, М. (2004) Моя жизнь с художниками "Улья". Москва: Искусство - XXI век.

Vorobieva, M. (1972) Life with the Painters of La Ruche. London: Constable.

Герман, М. (2004) Маревна (1892 - 1984). Каталог выставки. Государственная Третьяковская Галерея. Москва: Искусство - XXI век.

Лейкинд, О., Махров, К., Северюхин, Д. (2012) МАРЕВНА (наст. Воробьева-Стебельская, урожд. Воробьева Мария Брониславовна) [online] Available at: http://www.artrz.ru/menu/1804660060/1804785212.html
Marevna (1962) Life in Two Worlds: A True Chronicle of the Origins of Montparnasse. London: Abelard-Schuman
Perry G. (1995) Women artists and the Parisian avant-garde: modernism and feminine art, 1900 to the late 1920s. Manchester; New York: Manchester UP.