Millesgården Museum is happy and proud to present Jacqueline Marval (1866-1932) to the Swedish audience. Marval is one of the distinctive French artists who, in the early 1900s, found her place in the art world and who exhibited her works side by side with iconic artists such as Henri Matisse, Picasso and Maurice Denis. She was acclaimed by critics and participated in countless exhibitions in France and internationally. In 1912, poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire described her as “one of the most remarkable artists of our time.”
Despite this massive success during her lifetime, she has so far been overshadowed by her contemporaries. Since her death, there has only been one retrospective museum exhibition – in Grenoble in 1987. Lately, Marval and her works have been finding their way back into the limelight. Selections of her works have been shown at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, at the Grand Palais, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes and most recently at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris in 2021. The exhibition at Millesgården Museum is the first retrospective since 1987 and comprises around 60 works that span her entire artistic production. The exhibition is a collaboration with the Comité Jacqueline Marval
in Paris, custodian of the single largest collection of Jacqueline Marval’s works. For the past 40 years, the Committee and its members have undertaken to collect her works and research her life.
Jacqueline Marval was born in 1866 in Quaix, near Grenoble in France. Her name is Marie-Joséphine Vallet. Following in her parents’ footsteps, she studies to become a teacher, though without real conviction. Instead, she finds an outlet for her creativity in sewing and painting. After her studies, she marries and has a child. The death of her son Charles, only six months old, is a major turning point for her.
After the loss of her son, she decides to break up, leave her husband and live and provide for herself. She leaves her former life, moves to Montparnasse in Paris, and takes the name Jacqueline Marval (Mar+Val from her former surname). In the city of art, she quickly finds her place in one of the city’s cultural and intellectual circles, which includes Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Kees van Dongen, Albert Marquet and Tsuguharu Foujita. She is an artist – self-taught, free, flamboyant and spontaneous. Art dealer Berthe Weill, a renowned and tireless patron of women artists, exhibits her works in 1902 and, three years later, she participates in the historically significant exhibition at the Salon d’Automne that bore witness to the birth of Fauvism. It was at this same exhibition that an art critic condemned the participating artists led by Matisse, describing them as les fauves
– the wild beasts. Their undisguised wild, vivid brushstrokes and their use of unblended colours shocked many viewers.
Like her artist friend Matisse, she championed the liberation of colour; let colour be the subject, release it from its descriptive role, allow it to convey emotions. As a self-taught artist, it suited her to let theories, methods of presentation and frames as the central perspective give way to more decorative but colouristically expressive painting. The celebration of colour by the Fauvists and contemporary artists turns into a step towards modernism.
Jacqueline Marval’s paintings contain recurring familiar facial features, namely her own. These can be found not only in her self-portraits but also in depictions of prostitutes and other figures. She is her own muse and often portrays the female body without idealisation or embellishment – free. Marval was free. As free as she could be at a time when women did not have the right to vote, sign a check, or wear trousers. Marval did not exhibit as a female artist and frequently refused such offers. It was not her sex that was important, but rather her art.
Marval makes a name for herself and exhibits together with artists who are today seen as giants in the art world: Picasso, Matisse, Denis and Cocteau. One of Marval’s works was shown at the Armory Show in 1913, the celebrated exhibition in which European contemporary art was shown for the first time in New York. That same year, she is commissioned to paint eight panels for the new Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, one of Europe’s first Art Deco buildings.
In the 1920s, she depicts beach life at the seaside resort of Biarritz, one of the first summer resorts, together with her partner and fellow artist Jules Flandrin. There she affixes the new trend of sunbathing to canvas. Sun-kissed sandy beaches and lapping waves with a throng of people relaxing in black bathing suits. In some works, she allows the light to dominate, and bathers and parasols stand out like small black dots against the canvas.
On the banks of the Seine, at 19 quai Saint Michel, she lives next door to Flandrin, Marquet and Matisse. Showy bouquets of flowers against a background of Notre Dame and strolling Parisians form the subject matter in her final years. On 28 May 1932, Marval dies of cancer, aged 65 years old.Comité Jacqueline Marval in Paris