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The Cover
February 15, 2012

Group of Artists

JAMA. 2012;307(7):642. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.99

Group of Artists (cover), by Marie Laurencin (1885-1956), is a portrait of Pablo Picasso, Laurencin herself, Picasso's friend the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and Picasso's model and muse Fernande Olivier. At the lower left is Picasso, his features reminiscent of the geometrically fractured brothel workers in Les demoiselles d’Avignon, his own (notorious) painting of the previous year. At the center of Group of Artists is Apollinaire, reading aloud, and standing between the two men is Laurencin. Picasso introduced Apollinaire to Laurencin in 1907; they became lovers and alter egos, by turns inspiring and exasperating one another. In his poem “Marie,” Apollinaire wrote: “But when will you return Marie/Masks become silent and/Music so far away/It is the sky singing . . . ” The poem ends with the narrator wondering how long their love can last. Apollinaire and Laurencin were together for only a few years, but during that time they established their reputations in poetry and painting. The relationship of Picasso and Olivier—whose face appears in Group of Artists at the lower right—was also difficult, and also productive: Picasso painted more than 60 portraits of Olivier in a period of seven years. The placement of the two couples in the painting provides visual balance while conveying the tension in their relationships. Picasso and Olivier were said to be strongly attracted to one another but mutually jealous. In the painting he appears to be staring her down, while she ignores him and flirts with the viewer. The figures of Laurencin and Apollinaire also engage the viewer; though she presides over the group, he is unmistakably the center of attention.