Friday, February 10, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Marie Vassilieff

 Photograph by Man Ray

A look at another female artist whose name and artwork had eluded me until now:
Marie Vassilieff. She was born on 12 February 1884, in Russia, but spent much of her life in France. Her artworks include cubist style paintings, portraits of her friends; decorative furniture designs; also theatrical design and dolls/puppets.

From a 1998 piece in the New York Times by Mary Blume & International Herald Tribune:
Born in 1884 in Smolensk, Vassilieff came to Paris in 1907. She studied briefly at the academy that Matisse ran from 1908 to 1911 and where few of the students spoke French, then in 1910 became a co-founder and director of the Academie Russe. Two years later, after internal quarrels, she left the Russian academy and founded the Academie Vassilieff in her Avenue du Maine studio. In 1915 she created a canteen for foreign artists cut off from funds from home because of World War I that served a meal for 50 centimes.

The soup kitchen was her chief achievement and the show includes a drawing in her angular, primitive style of the dinner she gave in honor of Georges Braque in 1916, with Vassilieff holding a knife and a basin in which Matisse is about to deposit a turkey, while around the table sit Blaise Cendrars, Picasso, Fernand Leger, Jacob, Beatrice Hastings, Juan Gris and Braque wearing a laurel wreath. Modigliani stands at the entrance, arms raised in delight or in a shrug.
See here for illustration above.
For details on Vassilieff one must go to J.-P. Crespelle's not always reliable "Montparnasse Vivant," where Vassilieff is described as one of the quarter's most colorful personalities.

Tiny, with bright blue eyes, she said she was as beautiful as a Madonna when she arrived in Montparnasse and within days claimed to have been picked up on a park bench by a little old man who turned out to be Henri Rousseau. She refused his marriage proposal because of his bad breath but, longing to have a child, bore a son by an unidentified father in 1917.

The same year, for unclear reasons, perhaps because she had sheltered Lenin, she was placed under house arrest, an event shown in a drawing in the exhibition, with a companion sketch of Leger, in uniform, taking her son into his protection.

Her work vacillates between folk and modern art. She made dolls for the couturier Paul Poiret and Art Deco posters for the many balls that were held to raise funds for needy painters and at which she would oblige with a cossack dance. She also decorated two of the pillars in the restaurant of La Coupole. She died in an artists' retirement home in 1953 and Foujita said on her death, "The name of Marie Vassilieff will remain in the history of Montparnasse."

 Lady with Fan
 Little  Girl with Cat
 Poster for Jean Borlin's  Ballets Suédois
 Still Life with Masks in a Window

For more examples see Google Image, here.


Born on 12 February 1884 in Smolensk, Russia. Chart set for 12 noon - time of birth unknown.

First thought on seeing Marie Vassilieff's natal chart: it's well integrated, well synchronised - lots of scope for planetary patterns due to many planets in the late 20s degrees or very early degrees. This astrological synchrony is likely, I'd say, to produce a nature mainly at ease with itself, and with others.

A Grand Trine in Earth signs jumps out, linking Mercury to Uranus and Pluto and Chiron + out of sign Saturn. This Earthy emphasis in her chart indicates a practical, down to earth type, demonstrated, in what little we know about her, by her inclination to assist others by providing cheap food via her canteen for struggling artists, after World War I.

There's also a Mystic Rectangle linking signs in Earth and Water (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus) via trines, sextiles and oppositions. Any difficulties raised by the two oppositions would be balanced by the helpful trines and sextiles - again an indication of balance in her nature.

Sun in Aquarius - her modernism shines through her art, her social conscience shone through in the already mentioned provision of cheap food for peers in need. My favourite planetary position in this chart is the Yod :the sextile between Jupiter and Uranus in Cancer and Virgo links to natal Aquarius Sun via two 150 degree aspects (known as quincunxes). Proper astrologers don't usually interpret the Yod as I prefer to do. I see the planet at the apex (Sun = self) here as beneficiary of a blending of the sextiled planets' and signs' characteristics which would, without the sextile link, be an uncomfortable match for the apex planet. Translated: Jupiter, Uranus, Cancer, Virgo (extreme modernism blended with sensitivity and efficiency) benefit and enhance Sun's Aquarian avant garde and humanitarian nature.

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