Suzanne Valadon  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Suzanne Valadon (23 September 18657 April 1938) was a French painter born Marie-Clémentine Valadon at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France. In 1894, Valadon became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She is also the mother of painter Maurice Utrillo.



The daughter of an unmarried laundress, Suzanne Valadon became a circus acrobat at the age of fifteen, but a year later, a fall from a trapeze ended that career.

In the Montmartre quarter of Paris, she pursued her interest in art, first working as a model for artists, observing and learning their techniques, before becoming a noted painter herself. She modeled for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (who gave her painting lessons), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, and is known to have had an affair with the latter two. She befriended Edgar Degas who, impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings, purchased her work and encouraged her efforts.

The most recognizable image of Valadon would be in Renoir's Dance at Bougival from 1883, the same year that she posed for City Dance. In 1885, Renoir painted her portrait again as Girl Braiding Her Hair. Another of his portraits of her in 1885, Suzanne Valadon, is of her head and shoulders in profile. Valadon frequented the bars and taverns of Paris along with her fellow painters, and in 1889, Toulouse-Lautrec painted her as the subject of The Hangover.

Valadon painted still life, portraits, floral art, and landscapes that are noted for their strong composition and vibrant colors. She was, however, best known for her candid female nudes. A perfectionist, she worked on some of her oil paintings for up to thirteen years, before showing them. She also worked in pastel. Her first exhibitions, held in the early 1890s, consisted mostly of portraits.

Today, some of her works may be seen at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Musée des Beaux Arts in Grenoble, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Personal life

A free spirit, she would wear a corsage of carrots, kept a goat at her studio to "eat up her bad drawings", and fed caviar (rather than meat) to her "good Catholic" cats on Fridays.

Despite her financial success and the recognition gained for her artistic achievements, her fame was eclipsed by that of her son. She gave birth to the boy in 1883 and, never divulging the identity of his father, named him Maurice Valadon. Her son later adopted the paternal family name of a close friend of his mother, Miguel Utrillo y Morlius, who owned the Auberge du Clou, a tavern frequented by the residents, shop owners, workers, and artists of Montmartre. The tavern had a shadow theatre in its basement and Miguel also created the scenery, ombres, and stage settings for the productions. After being taught to paint and mentored by his mother, as Maurice Utrillo, he became one of Montmartre's best-known artists.

Among her works is a portrait of the composer Erik Satie, with whom she had a six-month affair in 1893. A smitten Satie proposed marriage after their first night together. For Satie, the intimacy of his relationship with Valadon would be the only one of its kind in his life, leaving him at its end, he said, with "nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness."

Valadon's marriage to stockbroker Paul Mousis in 1896 ended when, in 1909, she left him for a painter half her age, André Utter. She married Utter in 1914, but the marriage did not last either.

Suzanne Valadon died on 7 April 1938 and was interred in the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen in Paris. Among those in attendance at her funeral were her friends and colleagues, Andre Derain, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque.


A novel based on her life by Elaine Todd Koren was published in 2001, entitled Suzanne: of Love and Art.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suzanne Valadon" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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