Blind Contour Drawing #16 “Composition avec tache rouge” 1916 Maria Blanchard
María Blanchard was born in Santander in Cantabria, Spain. Her mother had an accident during her pregnancy that meant Blanchard was born with severe disabilities such as a deformation of the spine. As a result, she had a hunchback and found it very difficult to walk. She was teased heavily at school, which left her emotional scarred. However, Blanchard found painting to be a great way of escaping and expressing how she felt.
Her family was a huge influence in Blanchard’s decision to follow a career in art. Her father provided her with love and knowledge of art, and he helped to cultivate her artistic talent in drawing.
In 1903, Blanchard moved to study in Madrid where she began training with Spanish artists such as Emilio Sala and Manuel Benedito. With Sala, Blanchard learnt the precision of drawing and the expressive use of colour.
In 1909, after winning the third prize for one of her paintings at the ‘Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes,’ the Santander government decided to fund her education in the arts with a grant. With this aid, Blanchard went to study in Paris at the ‘Academie Vitti.’ While at the Academy, she discovered Cubism.
At the beginning of the WWI, Blanchard left Paris and returned to Madrid. She began teaching art in Salamanca and participated in some expositions. After the war, she returned to Paris, where she would spend the rest of her life.
In Paris, Blanchard began spending time with the many Cubist artists living there, and she was particularly good friends with the Cubist Spanish painter, Juan Gris. His influence can be seen in many of her paintings. She joined the Cubist art group and soon began developing her own style, involving bold colour that would often clash. Her paintings were very expressive and often intimidating. In the view of Jacques Lipchitz, Blanchard brought expressiveness and, above all, feeling to Cubism.
Her work attracted the attention of the most important art dealer at the time, Léonce Rosenberg. By 1919, he organized her first individual exhibition of cubist works. The following year she exhibited work in Belgium and France. In 1921, she showed work at the ‘Société des Artistes Indépendants.’ Her work was in high demand, however, due to the economic crisis following this period, many collectors stopped investing in her work. So despite her success, she became destitute. She had to rely on her friend, Frank Flausch, to support her and he did so until her death.
Blanchard’s good friend, Gris died in 1927, and the loss of this close friendship was too much for her to take. She became a recluse, even refusing to see any of her other artist friends. However, she did continue to paint.
Unfortunately, her health gradually got worse over the coming years, and at one point she contracted tuberculosis which made it impossible for her to paint. Eventually, in 1932, Blanchard died at the age of fifty-one.
Blanchard has been and continues to be one of the great unknown artists of the early 20th century. In the forties, it has been confirmed that her signature was removed from some of her work in order to add the name, Gris because of his higher market value. Art history tends to focus on Blanchard’s appearance and personal struggles with her health but recent investigation reveals that she was admired by her peers for her strong character and earned the respect of her colleagues, a difficult feat at the time, in a environment dominated by men. Curator, Maria Jose Salazar recently wrote that “her work has remained in the background in comparison with that of her avant-garde peers and friends. However, Blanchard was equal and in some cases superior to the latter, above all in her particular way of understanding and perceiving Cubism.”
Born: March 6, 1881 Santander, Spain
Died: April 5, 1932 Paris, France