Marie Vorobieff

Marie Vorobieff

Marie Bronislava Vorobieff-Stebelska (Russian: Мария Брониславовна Воробьёва-Стебельская; 1892 – May 4, 1984), also known as Marevna, was a Russian-born Cubist painter. She is internationally known for convincingly combining elements of cubism (called by her "Dimensionalism") with pointillism and – through the use of the Golden Ratio for laying out paintings – structure. She tends to be accredited with having been the first female cubist painter. Though having lived the greater part of her life abroad – her formative years as a cubist painter in France and her mature years in England –, she is often referred to as a "Russian painter". Her name is included in the "artcult" list entitled "Judaica". From her relationship with the Mexican cubist painter and later muralist Diego Rivera in Paris she had a daughter, Marika Rivera (born 1919), who herself went on to become a professional dancer and film actress.


Artist’s name

In order to be able to trace information about Marevna’s life and her work it is important to bear in mind that she was also known, depending on the preferred usage or transliteration, as Maria Marevna, Marie Marevna, Marie Vorobiev, Maria Vorobieva, Marie Vorobieff Marevna, Maria Marewna Worobiew, Marevna Vorobëv, Marevna Vorobyev, Marevna Vorobieva, Marevna Vorobev-Stebelska, Marevna Vorobyov-Stebelska, Maria Vorobyova-Stebelskaya, Maria Bronislawowna Worobjewa-Stebelskaja, Maria Rozanowicz-Vorobieff, and Rosanovitch Marevna Vorobiev.

Reputedly, the nickname Marevna was given to her by Maxim Gorky after a Russian fairy sea princess.

Growing up in Russia

Marevna reputedly was born in 1892 in Cheboksary in the administrative district of Kazan in Russia as Maria Bronislawowna Worobjewa-Stebelskaja to the Polish nobleman Bronislaw Stebelskij and the actress Maria Worobjewa and spent a lonely childhood in Tiflis, then under Russian control, now Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. In 1910 she went to Moscow to study at the Stroganov Art Academy, but already in the following year left for Italy. On the island of Capri she was introduced to Maxim Gorki who called her after a Russian fairy sea princess by the name "Marevna" that she was to make her signature. A blue-eyed blonde petite, she was said not to have been a conventional beauty; but an outgoing nature paired with the proverbial depth of the Russian soul seems to have given her a special charm that easily elicited an enthusiastic echo from her contemporaries.

Early career in Paris

In 1912, as a twenty-year-old budding talent, Marevna moved to Paris, where she continued her art studies and soon began displaying her work at exhibitions. She became acquainted and, indeed, friends with some of the greatest artists and writers of the early twentieth century then resident in Montparnasse and especially at La Ruche, among them wereGeorges Braque, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Ilya Ehrenburg, Maxim Gorki, Max Jacob, Moise Kisling, Pinchus Krémègne, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, and Chaim Soutine.

Three years later, in 1915, the gifted Mexican painter Diego Rivera also temporarily resident in Paris at La Ruche – no Adonis but a known womanizer of violent temper – began a relationship with her while still in a common-law marriage with the Russian artist Angelina Beloff, who was six years his senior and then pregnant with his only son Diego Jr. who was not, however, to survive for more than 14 months.

Rivera was nearly 30 years of age at the time and by then arriving at the masterly zenith of his cubist phase, having already exhibited his works at three exhibitions. In the company of such outstanding peers experimenting with this new style and producing convincing results, Marevna who herself discovered cubism as an eminently suited vehicle for her own talent, indeed, is thought to have been the first female cubist painter.

Despite Diego Rivera's assurances of his love for Marevna, their relationship was not to last but ended soon after the birth on 13 November 1919 in Paris of their daughter Marika. A comparison of their respective subsequent work, also of Marevna's paintings with those of Diego Rivera's later wife Frida Kahlo, suggests though that Marevna never quite lost sight of him. Nevertheless, for a time, until his tragic death, she was to find a kindred spirit in Chaim Soutine.

"Homage to Friends from Montparnasse" (1962)[1], of mural size yet painted long after she had left Paris, is a window into Marevna's heart, not only as regards Diego Rivera, however, but also Chaim Soutine and other Paris friends – a little circle completely dominated by Amedeo Modigliani.

Later career in England

Marevna's and Diego Rivera's daughter Marika went on to become first a dancer then a film actress, and then also a playwright, using the name Marika Rivera.[2] At her first wedding in 1938 Marika married the Provence painter Jean Paul Brusset [3] by whom she had a son, Jean Brusset. Subsequently she married the owner of the literary periodical "Polemic", Rodney Phillips, who for the duration of their marriage owned Athelhampton House in Dorset/England (1949–1957)[4], and by whom in 1949 she had her second son, David Phillips.

Marevna lived with her daughter's family at Athelhampton. Her paintings from this time include a portrait of its owner – her son-in-law Rodney Phillips – and the stunning topiaries in its Great Court ("Pyramid Garden").[5]

After the break-up of her daughter's second marriage, mother, daughter and the two grandsons moved to a significantly smaller though still sizeable property in Ealing, "the queen of the London suburbs", a few steps down the road from Ealing Abbey, a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery and parish church. In Ealing Marevna "enjoyed some three more fruitful decades before her demise there in 1984".This was to gloss over the low points in the early 1960s. The Pushkin Club for Russian exiles in London arranged an exhibition of her paintings but the poor lighting and hanging made for a disaster and even at the rock bottom price of $60 there were no sales. In the Christmas Bazaar sale the club sold off her small watercolors for not more than $3. At home the household dogs had access to her storage and damaged her paintings. No money was available from her family for paint or materials nor was there even a room to paint in. She was fortunate enough then to meet Anya Teixeira at the Club. The latter bought her materials from her meager earnings as a clerk. These included the rolls of canvas from which the ultra-large large pictures of her former colleagues in the Russian School of Paris painted. She successfully pleaded for Marevna to have the use of a large room to paint in so she could resume her career.

Marevna died in London on May 4, 1984.


Born in Russia on 14 February 1892, the natural daughter of Polish aristocrat Bronislaw Stebeleski and Jewish artist Maria Rosanovitch (who was later to become the wife of Alexander Vorobiev),Marie Vorobiev Stebelska was first taught in Tbilissi, then in Moscow in 1910 at the Stroganov Academy of Fine Arts where she first learnt of Italian primitives ,Impressionism and Fauvism.This marked the beginning of her nomadic life .Far from the wild Caucasian steppe and the City of Moscow, it was first in Capri that she went as early as 1911 and there met Maxime Gorki, who nicknamed her " Marevna" after the "Little Princess of the Sea" out of a Russian fairy tale .She considered marrying Gorki's son,Yura, but he was only to remain a close friend.It was in Paris that Marevna was going to grow her own style .Aged twenty, she arrived at the Lyon Railway Station and settled in the Ruche, an arts centre for immigrant artists that would much later be the inspiration for a book(1).She associated a lot with the Russian immigrants , amongst whom the painter Soutine ,the sculptor Zadkine and the writer Ilya Ehrenbourg ,and at the Café La Rotonde with the Montparnasse painters who were to become her friends : Marc Chagall,Moise Kisling,Amadeo Modigliani,Henri Matisse ,Fernand Léger,Georges Braque, Fujita and Pablo Picasso. She befriended the poets Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire and Jean Cocteau .She became firm friends with Picasso who admired her and used to say to her "we shall make you into an even greater artist than Marie Laurencin". She painted those illustrious personages on large canvasses by representing their features and expressions in striking likenesses .Marevna was an excellent portrait painter . The purity and freshness of her painting were soon noticed . She drew from this painting her independence although she lived in a world of men . She discovered her pictorial technique :jerky rhythms , geometric facets , thick lines dividing coloured spaces .She was inspired by the Pointillism of Seurat and she also developed the cubist technique .Later on she combined both styles : she was the first woman to adopt Cubism . Her paintings were exhibited at the Tuileries as early as 1912, at the Independants in 1913 and at the Salon d'automne in 1919. In 1915,Léon Rosenberg , the art dealer, sold her earlier paintings.It was at this time that Marevna met the one who was to become the love of her life : Diego Rivera , the Mexican painter and muralist, for a six years passionate and stormy relationship that produced a daughter whose first name was Marika in 1919.He rented for them a house in Chatillon where he came to see his daughter up to the age of two.He left them in 1921 to return to his native country where his father had fallen ill . As to her , thanks to patrons like the well-known auctioneer Zamaron and Zborowsky ,she had the opportunity of selling her works and bringing up her daughter Marika . The latter , grown to be a classical dancer and choreographer married Jean Paul Brusset , painter and friend of Tristan Bernard and Jean Cocteau, who became artistic manager of the Palm Beach entertainments in Cannes in the thirties and forties, Marevna followed her daughter on the French Riviera .The marriage produced a son , Jean Diego born in 1941. In 1942 Marika and Jean Paul Brusset joined the Free French Forces in North Africa. Young Jean Diego was brought up by his grandmother Marevna. It was also in 1942 that Marevna set up her easel at the prow of that stone vessel of Saint Paul de Vence.There she rented from Paul Roux an artist's studio located behind the Colombe d'Or to settle there.She painted many times the city walls, making them sparkle in the light of the Riviera with the spectrum of her pointillism.In 1945 in Saint Paul she met André Verdet , a freedom-fighter , concentration camp prisoner and Poet of the Village : it was the beginning of a lasting friendship.Back from the maquis , Marevna's son in-law made friends with Marguerite and Aimé Maeght in 1946 and the latter organised shows of the paintings by the one he affectionately referred to as " my little Paul ". In 1948 , after her divorce , Marika got acquainted with Rodney Phillips in Saint Paul .They made friends with Jacques Prévert and then left France to settle down in England where they got married . Then Marevna followed her daughter to the United Kingdom to stay in Athelhampton House with her, her new son -in-law , her grandson and soon with the latter's stepbrother.She completely dedicated her life to her painting .Nevertheless , she lovingly cared for Jean Diego and Elie David. It was in London that in 1958 , she met again her old friend Ilya Ehrenbourg . She took part in the neo-impressionism retrospect at the Guggenheim Foundation in New York in 1968 . Doctor Oscar Ghez , founder president of the Petit Palais in Geneva bought150 of Marevna's canvasses and continued to encourage her and to display her works in France, in the United States and in Japan .In 1979 she published her "Nomadic Memories "(2). She passed away on may 4th 1984, aged 92 .Her ashes now lie in the park of the Dolores Olmedo¨Patino Foundation in Mexico, placed in the plinth of the monumental statue of the head of Diego Rivera whom she loved to the end despite everything . That was the end of the long nomadic voyage through life of the "Little Princess of the Sea"

(1)Life with the Painters of the Ruche . Constable 1972 ,ISBN 0094587604 , American Edition New York 1974 . (2)Mémoires d'une Nomade Encre, 1979, ISBN2864180243 ( Life in two Worlds Abelard-Schuman London , New York , Toronto 1962)

Patrick Cooke, the present owner of Athelhampton House, has opened "Marevna’s Studio" in the West Wing showing a range of pictures from "The Marika & David Philips and Athelhampton Collections".[6] [7]

Select list of paintings

  • While unfortunately the contract for the work ended in court proceedings, the catalogue and online reproductions of over 100 pictures are available (for reference only) on the official site of Anya Teixeira for the years up till 1967. These slides undoubtedly helped the subsequent purchase of much of Marevna's work by Oscar Ghez,the Swiss collector.
  • This catalogue and the slides have been digitized and are held for research purposes by the Women's Art Library, a branch of Goldsmith's College,London
  • Georgian Dance (probably a self portrait, 1913)
  • Still Life (1915, gouache, 20 cm x 16 cm)
  • Diego Rivera, Amedeo Modigliani and Ilya Ehrenburg in Rivera's studio (1916, drawing) [8]
  • L'attente (c.1916, oil, 39 cm x 28 cm)
  • M. et Mme. Zetlin, La Rotonde Café, Paris (signed, 1916, 21.5 cm x 16.5 cm)
  • La Rotonde Terasza, Paris (1917) [9] (scroll down to 5th painting)
  • Chaim Soutine (portrait, c.1916-17, canvas) [10] (in the Erich Lessing Collection make an "easy search" for Marevna)
  • Nature morte à la bouteille (1917, oil/canvas, 50 cm x 61 cm)
  • Self Portrait with Still Life (1917) [11] (scroll down to 6th painting)
  • Mother and Child (oil/canvas, 25 cm x 25 cm) [12] (scroll down to 4th painting)
  • Nature morte aux deux orange (1918, aquarelle/paper, 43 cm x 57 cm)
  • Adolescente, Portrait of a Young Girl (1927, oil/panel, 6 cm x 38 cm)
  • Portrait de Marika (c. 1927, oil/panel, 40 cm x 32 cm)
  • Femme allongée (1929, painting, 21 cm x 30 cm)
  • Femme nue, en buste (1930, oil, 55 cm x 46 cn)
  • Standing Nude (c. 1930, watercolour, 39 cm x 28.5 cm)
  • Deux amies (c. 1930, mine plomb, 44 cm x 63 cm) [13]
  • Portrait de Monsieur Zamaron (1931, oil, 46.5 cm x 38 cm)
  • Bouquet de fleurs (1931, oil, 60 cm x 43 cm)
  • Still Life with Flowers and Fruits in a Basket (1931, oil/canvas, 80.5 cm x 60.5 cm)
  • Vase de fleurs des champs (1932, oil/canvas, 55 cm x 38.5 cm)
  • Composition de fleurs des champs (1932, oil, 55 cm x 38 cm)
  • Cagne (1936, oil/panel, 52 cm x 71 cm)
  • Vase de fleurs (1938, oil, 65 cm x 50 cm)
  • Le petit marin (1939, mine plomb, 62 cm x 47 cm)
  • Le matelot au café (1939, colour pencils/paper, 63 cm x 47 cm)
  • Reclining Nude (1939, watercolour, 23.5 cm x 32 cm)
  • Cagnes-sur-Mer (1940, mixed media, 28 cm x 38 cm)
  • Portrait de Femme (1940)
  • Nue allongée (1939–42, watercolour, 23.5 cm x 32 cm)
  • Portrait of Marika with shawl (1942, watercolour/paper, 31 cm x 24.5 cm)
  • Frère et soeur (1942, ink, 27.5 cm x 21.5 cm)
  • Mère et ses deux enfants (1942, oil, 115 cm x 81 cm)
  • Two children (1942, oil/canvas, 35 cm x 24 cm)
  • Saint-Paul-de-Vence, bouquet à la colombe d’or (1942, oil, 92 cm x 65 cm)
  • Vase with Anemones (1942, oil/canvas, 72 cm x 58.5 cm) [14] (scroll down to 11th painting)
  • Nude in a landscape (1942, oil/canvas, 55 cm x 42 cm)
  • Composition aux raisins et aux pommes (1943, oil, 54 cm x 48 cm)
  • Mère et enfants (1943, oil, 100 cm x 81 cm)
  • Belle Arménienne (1943, oil, 73 cm x 60 cm)
  • Two seated nudes (1943, watercolour, 53 cm x 40 cm)
  • Femme assise (1944, watercolour, gouache, 33 cm x 25 cm)
  • Vase of Tulips (1944, oil/canvas, 73 cm x 54 cm)
  • Bouquet de Fleurs (signed, 1946, 37.5 cm x 31 cm)
  • Jeune femme au chapeau (1946, oil, 65 cm x 50 cm)
  • Landscape with Trees and Barrow (1946, oil/canvas/board, 48.9 cm x 73.6 cm)
  • Nature morte à la bouteille (c.1948, oil/canvas, 51 cm x 61 cm)
  • Nature morte au panier de raisins (1953, oil/board, 64 cm x 51 cm)
  • The Squirrel (1953, watercolour/pencil/paper, 46.5 cm x 56.3 cm)
  • Portrait of David, the artist's grandson, aged 6 (1955, signed, oil/canvas, 87 cm x 66 cm)
  • Untitled (1956, signed, drawing/watercolour, 25 cm x 35 cm)
  • Saint Benedict at prayer near Monte Cassino (1956, signed)
  • Ealing Abbey (1959, signed)
  • Nature morte au violon (c.1960, signed, oil, 57.5 cm x 40.5 cm)
  • Homage to Friends from Montparnasse (c.1962, oil/canvas) [15] Top left to right: Diego Rivera, Ilya Ehrenburg, Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani, his wife Jeanne Hébuterne, Max Jacob, galerie owner Leopold Zborowski [16] [17]. Bottom left to right: Marevna, hers and Diego Rivera's daughter Marika, (Amedeo Modigliani), Moise Kisling.
  • Cubist Still Life with Flowers (1959–66, oil/board, 100 cm x 60 cm)
  • Sleeping Girl in green (1966, oil/panel, 48.2 cm x 60.5 cm)
  • Dancing Jews/Rabbis/Chasidics (1967, ink, pen, 22.5 cm x 29 cm) [18]
  • Fillette au bouquet (c.1967, oil, 75.5 cm x 50.5 cm)
  • Portrait of Marika with her Dog and Cats (1968, oil/panel, 89 cm x 122 cm)
  • Chat pres d'un vase de fleurs (1968, oil/canvas, 86 cm x 64 cm)
  • Sous-bois a Vence (1968, oil/canvas, 73 cm x 92 cm)
  • Landscape with a Thistle (signed, 1969, oil/canvas, 96 cm x 130 cm) [19] (auction June 11, 2005; Lot #14)
  • Reclining Beauty with Boots (Catherine/Cate Dolan) (1972, oil/canvas, 50.8 cm x 76.2 cm) [20]
  • The Bathers, After Cézanne (1972, signed in Latin l.l., oil/canvas, 39.4 cm x 48.2 cm) [21]
  • Portrait de Colin Phillips (1972, oil/canvas, 91 cm x 71 cm)
  • Seated Woman with Madonna and Child (1973, signed in Latin l.l., oil/pencil/canvas/board, 83.6 cm x 58.6 cm) [22]
  • Reclining Woman with two Dogs (1974, oil/board, 108 cm x 117 cm)
  • Nude before a Mirror (1976, watercolour, pencil/paper, 58 cm x 41 cm)
  • Portrait of Marika (1978, oil/canvas, 65.5 cm x 51.5 cm)
  • The artist's house, Ealing (1979, oil, 49.5 cm x 60 cm)
  • Smokers: Ballet owner Serge de Diaghilev (centre) with Jean Cocteau (to his left), Natalia Goncharova (left) and her husband Mikhail Larionov (right) [23] (scroll down to 3rd painting), for detail see: [24]
  • Le cuisinier (watercolour, 98 cm x 66 cm)
  • Nature morte aux raisins (aquarelle/paper, 63 cm x 48 cm)
  • Paysage (Gouache/papier, 36 cm x 49 cm)
  • Tournesols (oil/canvas, 58 cm x 91 cm)
  • Jeune fille au chat (oilcanvas, 51 cm x 41 cm)
  • Femme nue debout (watercolour, 38 cm x 28 cm)
  • Portrait de femme brune (oil, 49 cm x 36 cm)
  • Portrait de Jeannot (oil/canvas/board, 36 cm x 24 cm)
  • Les deux amies (oil, 81 cm x 65.5 cm)
  • Jeune enfant avec une grappe de raisins (oil, 54 cm x 47 cm)
  • Les Mabinogion (illustration for book cover) [25]
  • Village in a Hilly Landscape (watercolour, 25 cm x 33.5 cm)
  • Landshap te Almelo, gezien vanuit een raam (unsigned, 61.5 cm x 38 cm) [26] (go down to painting No. 2206, or see enlargement without description) [27]
  • Descent from the Cross (oil/canvas, 186 cm x 312 cm) [28]
  • Dom Bernard with Bible
  • Cubist Sunflowers (oil/canvas, 109.2 cm x 76.2 cm) [29]
  • Man and a Bird (indistinctly dated, signed, oil/canvas, 71 cm x 63 cm)[30]
  • Nudes (signed, mixed media on paper, 44 cm x 63 cm) [31]
  • Mother and Child (ink/paper, 37 cm x 25 cm)
  • Girl with Flowers (oil/canvas, 76 cm x 51 cm)
  • A seated Man (watercolour/paper, 30 cm x 21.5 cm)


  • Marevna, Life in Two Worlds: A True Chronicle of the Origins of Montparnasse (London 1962)
  • Marevna Vorobëv, Life with the Painters of La Ruche (Publisher: Constable 1972, ISBN 0-09-458760-4; American edition: New York 1974; 3rd Edition David Phillips 2007)
  • Marevna Vorobëv, Mémoires d'une nomade (Publisher: Encre 1979, ISBN 2-86418-024-3)
  • Marevna Vorobëv, Marevna et les Montparnos: Au Musée Bourdelle, ville de Paris, du 25 septembre au 3 novembre 1985 (Publisher: Musées de la ville de Paris 1985, ISBN 2-901784-06-2)
  • Gillian Perry, Women Artists and the Parisian Avant-Garde: Modernism and 'Feminine' Art, 1900 to the Late 1920s (Manchester 1996)

External links

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