BLANCHARD Maria
Born in Santander, Spain, 1881; died in Paris in 1932. Does she owe her troubled, complex art to the Spanish influence of her father and the part French, part Polish influence of her mother? These three nationalities might partly explain her painting, in which one finds the Spanish sense of tragedy and grandeur, a kind of coloured imagery reminiscent of popular Slav art, and finally a human presence, a restraint even in deliberate distortion, an emotional self-control which seem to come from the French side of her. To Cubism Maria Blanchard owed her method of composing a picture, of organizing the planes with a rhythm which accentuates the contour of forms. But this severity, no matter how geometrical it became, never ended in abstraction; nor did the emphasis on volume ever become mechanical: the surface is modelled with a freedom that is never brutal, the gestures of the people she depicts are full of tenderness and the impression of grandeur comes from the judicious use of plastic elements, as well as from the sentimental expression that shines from the subject. As a painter of children she seems to have bent over their faces with a real maternal solicitude. Despite a general impression of tranquillity and contentment, very few of her canvases are free from a deep melancholy which doubtless had its origins in the sad life of the artist herself. Her palette, limited to earth colours, muted blues, olive greens, dull whites and blacks -- helps to heighten this feeling. Small and hump-backed, Maria Blanchard did not sink to despair in her art, despite her physical handicap. On the contrary, her misfortune gave her a keen sense of the grandeur and tragedy of everyday life which, had it not been for her, would have been almost totally absent from the art of her time.
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