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Vibrant painting pioneer creates a new world

Dec 13,2017
“Three Young Women” (1953), one of the most recent works by Marie Laurencin, is on display at the Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER]
Tokyo is home to the only Marie Laurencin museum in the world. It was founded by Masahiro Takano in 1983 in Nagano, but had to close in 2011 due to a financial crisis. The museum was able to reopen its doors in July, and now, it’s run by Masahiro’s son, Hirohisa Yoshizawa, who flew to Seoul on Dec. 8 to celebrate the opening of a Marie Laurencin exhibit at the Seoul Arts Center (SAC) in southern Seoul.

At the SAC’s Hangaram Art Museum until March 11, the “Marie Laurencin - The Bliss of Colors” exhibition showcases some 160 works from her lifetime owned by the Marie Laurencin Museum in Japan. This is the first time that her original works have been exhibited in Korea.

Born in 1883, when the idea of painting wasn’t considered a profession for women, Laurencin paved the way for the women of her era to come forward with their brushes and show that they had just as much talent as their male counterparts. Having survived the two World Wars, she created a peaceful utopia on her canvas, where there was no place for men or war.

Laurencin’s paintings usually depict multiple women standing closely together, alluding to a homosexual relationship. She was open about her homosexuality, becoming not only the first professional female painter, but also the first professional lesbian painter as well.

During her lifetime, she was criticized by her contemporaries, who looked down on her use of limited colors and subjects. Yet, though the range of her works may be somewhat small compared to other artists of the era like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, her command of unique greyish pastels are enough to put her alongside the masters who painted the scenes of French art.

“My father first saw her paintings in a little gallery when he travelled to Paris in early 1970s,” said Yoshizawa to the Korean press before the opening of the exhibition. “Before she died, Laurencin told her adopted daughter not to make her works official to anyone, and to keep people from researching her. So it was after the 1970s, when her daughter died, that Laurencin’s works were revealed to the public, and that time coincided with when my parents travelled to France.”

“Modern people have a great taste and curiosity for color in Korea,” said Kim Dae-sung, the head of Gaudium Associates, who funded the exhibition.

“Through the bliss of colors in this exhibition, people can come in and not only enjoy the exhibition, but be healed through this experience. I believe that the positive vibe that comes from the paintings can help Korean people who come in and they can take that energy home with them.”

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]

Hangaram Art Museum is inside the Seoul Arts Center, a five-minute walk from Nambu Bus Terminal Station, line No. 3, exit 5. Tickets cost 13,000 won ($11.96) for adults and 10,000 won for children. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until February, and 8 p.m. in March. For more information, visit www.sac.or.kr or call (02) 580-1300.