Maria Blanchard was born horribly disfigured from a fall that her mother took
while she was pregnant. Her disfigurements included enanismo, which is
like dwarfism, a hump on her back, much like a polio victim would have and
cojera, which is a deformity in the hips, making walking very difficult.
She was often referred to as "the witch". This led her to live a life of
solitude. However, this did not stop Maria from becoming a great artist.
Maria Gutierrez Blanchard was the first-born child of Conception Blanchard
and Enrique Gutierrez. She was born in March of 1881, in Santander, Spain.
In 1903, Maria moved to Madrid so she could study to become a painter.
Her teachers included:
- Fernando Alvarez de Sotomayor
- Manuel Benedito
- Emelio Sala
In 1909, Maria's hard work and training won her a grant to continue her
studies in Paris, at the Academy Vitti (Academie Vitti), where she studied under
Hermengildo Anglada Camarasa, and Kees Van Dongen. While at the Academy,
Kees taught her how to break out of the constraints on her artwork that she was
taught while studying in Spain. It was during this time that she was
introduced to Cubism, after meeting artists such as, Jacques Lipchitz and Juan
Gris. These two artists greatly influenced much of Maria's future works.
In 1910, while in Paris, Maria received a medal in the National Exhibition of Beautiful Arts. She took second prize for her work titled "Nymphs Chaining
Maria returned to Madrid in 1914, where she would participate in an art
exhibition called Pintores Integros. The exhibition was organized by
Ramone Gomez de la Serna, a Spanish writer, and featured artwork from Jacques
Lipchitz, Juan Gris, and Diego Rivera.
From 1914 to 1916, Maria taught drawing to select students in Salamanca.
In the later part of 1916, she returned to Paris and began painting in the
Cubist style with works such as "Woman with Fan" and "Woman with Guitar".
With these two paintings, she fully embraced the methods of Cubism, using
flat interlocking shapes. It is said that you could see the influence of Juan Gris and Jacques Lipchitz in these paintings.
In 1920, Maria began to paint in a more traditional style. Her colors
were more poetic and the characters in her paintings reflected the sadness and
melancholy feelings that Maria felt in her own life.
In 1921, Maria achieved success with her painting titled "The Communicant",
which was displayed at the Salon des Independants in Paris. She began to
sell many of her artworks after this showing. But Maria's bad luck caused
her to lose the support of many of her patrons due to the financial hardships of
Frank Flausch came to Maria's aid by paying her a monthly contract.
This aid lasted until 1926, when Flausch died.
Maria's health began to deteriorate from tuberculosis and the stress of day
to day life, and Maria's sister Carmen and her children came to live with her.
In spite of all of these challenges, Maria continued to paint, selling her
paintings to the director of the Valvin Gallery in Paris, Max Berger. She
also had several private patrons. This helped solve Maria's financial
problems but not her health problems.
Maria sought help for her deteriorating health in religion. It is said
that she even considered entering into a convent but was persuaded not to by the
leaders of the convent.
During the last few years of her life, Maria once again experienced financial problems since she had to create more paintings to sell to patrons that would
help her pay for her sister and her nephews. This caused Maria's health to
rapidly deteriorate until she died in April of 1932.
Several of Maria's Cubist paintings have been compared to the great Cubist
painter Picasso and she even shared an exhibition with him at the Hall Des Independance.
Many of Maria's works are still on display at:
- Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid
- Hood Museum of Art, New Hampshire
- Courtauld Institute of Art, London
More information on other lesser known female artists can be
Source: Women And The Art World. 2nd
ed. : Alpine Publishers, 1971.