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Marie Vassilieff

Marie Vassilieff was born in Smolensk, Russia.  In 1903 she gave up studies in medicine and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg. In 1906 she traveled to Paris to continue her studies.

In 1907 Vassilieff began her studies with Henri Matisse. Then in 1910 along with several other Russian artists she founded the Russian Academy of Painting and Sculpture, she became the director.

Also in 1910 Vassilieff exhibited her works for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants, and the Salon d’Automne.  She continued to exhibit at this salon regularly.

In 1912 Vassilieff founded her own academy, called Académie Vassilieff, it was located on the Avenue du Maine in Montparnasse.  This place became her atelier, and it was the meeting place of the most important members of the modern art community.  She was associated with the artists of the Bateau Lavoir, she was friends with Leger and Picasso.  Vassilieff painted many Cubist works during this period.

During World War One, Vassilieff worked on an ambulance for the French Army.  She also had a canteen for artists on the second floor of her academy.  In 1915 she exhibited in Saint Petersburg.  In 1916 she organized a banquet in the honor of Georges Braque at her “Cantine des Artistes.”

In 1920 Vassilieff collaborated with designer Paul Poiret creating a series of puppets for the Ballets Suédois.

In 1921, Vassilieff participated in a London exhibition of Russian Arts and Crafts at the Whitechapel Gallery.  She participated in many exhibitions and in 1925, she created Baroque furniture for ‘’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne at the Grand Palais in Paris, and she participated in the Bal de la Grande Ourse.

In 1927 she created two panels at La Coupole, a huge Art Deco brasserie on the Boulevard Montparnasse.  She continued to exhibit at the Salon des Tuileries until 1938.

Vassilieff created marionettes for The Marionette Congress in Chicago in 1931.  In 1937 she designed her illuminated costumes “Sonnet aux Voyelle” for the
Théâtre d’Art et Essai de Louise Lara at l’Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne.  She also painted panels for the railroad at the Gare Montparnasse.

Always a true modernist, Vassilieff was among the Parisian avant-garde that left a legacy in passion and ingenuity.  In her paintings, costume designs, and her incredible puppets, she expressed her unique creativity.

Vassilieff’s  atelier is now the Musée Montparnasse, nestled in a charming vine covered ally on the Avenue du Maine.  This museum is dedicated to the artists of Montparnasse.