Saturday, March 7, 2015

Suzanne Valadon

Still Life with Tulips and Fruit Bowl
oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm
Private collection

Suzanne Valadon, original name Marie-clementine Valadon (1865-1938), French painter noted for her robust figures and bold use of colour. She was the mother of the painter Maurice Utrillo.

She was the illegitimate daughter of a laundress, and, even before reaching her teens, she was surviving without her mother’s support. She took a variety of jobs, including those of waitress and circus acrobat. In the early 1880s she became an artist’s model, posing for such artists as Chavannes, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Renoir. By observing the artists for whom she modeled, she began to learn technique and to draw and produce pastels. When she was eighteen years old, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, the future artist Maurice Utrillo. Posing regularly for Renoir, she became his lover, as well as the lover of others, including Erik Satie and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

About 1890, her own art won the admiration and support of Edgar Degas, with whom she shared a close friendship. Yet many were disturbed by her works, especially her candid and earthy nudes which, like her sexual conduct, defied convention. After an attempt at marriage to a respectable businessman, she fell in love with Andre Utter, an artist twenty-one years her junior. In 1909 she ended her marriage, and about that time her mature style began to emerge. At nearly fifty years of age, she wed Utter and returned to a bohemian life. Her subjects were nudes, still-lifes, portraits, and landscapes. Her sensitive observation combined with bold linework and patterns won her much acclaim. She exhibited frequently and in the 1920s and ’30s became internationally known.