Marevna was born Marie Vorobieff-Stebelska in 1892 in Cheboksary, Russia. Her mother was an actress and her father a Polish nobleman. She spent a lonely childhood in Tiflis, the capital of Georgia, which was under Russian control. The name Marevna was given to her after a Russian fairy sea princess by Maxim Gorki, a Russian author and political activist whom she met in Italy, and this then became her signature.
An audacious yet charming and high spirited character, Marevna travelled Europe extensively and was one of the first women to discover Cubism, achieving remarkable blends of pointillism and structure in her work. Marevna was initially a portraitist but embraced Cubism, partially due to the influences of her relationship with the world famous Mexican painter/muralist Diego Rivera and her friendship with Fernand Léger and Ossip Zadkine. Modigliani, Picasso and Rivera all made portraits of Marevna.
Marevna entered the Moscow Stroganov Art Academy in 1910 and the following year went to Italy. In 1912 she went on to enter Paris and make a dramatic entry into the artistic community of La Ruche and live through the anti-cubist feelings of the First World War. Marevnas first significant exhibition was in 1912 at The Tuileries in France. Marevna went on to write her book Life with the Painters of La Ruche about her life during this period with the likes of Picasso, Braque, Chagall, Matisse, Modigliani Soutine, Rivera and Zadkine to mention but a few.
Marevna met Diego Rivera in 1915 when he temporarily became part of La Ruche. Although Rivera was still in a common-law marriage with Russian artist Angelina Beloff, he and Marevna had a daughter called Marika (1919 - 2010) and they continued to experience a stormy and complicated relationship until he returned home in 1921.