Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Suzanne Valadon, A Road in the Countryside

Church at Belgodere, Corsica, 1913

Farm Montcorin, 1918

A Road in the Countryside, 1918

Victorine ou La tigresse, 1919

Torso with Blue Ribbon, 1921

Catherine Reclining Nude on a Leopard Skin, 1923

Yellow Daisies, 1926

Nu allonge, 1928

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 modelled 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 affairs with the latter two. In the early 1890s she befriended Edgar Degas who, impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings, purchased her work and encouraged her efforts. She remained one of Degas' closest friends until his death.
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 she was Toulouse-Lautrec's subject in his oil painting The Hangover.
Valadon painted still lifes, portraits, flowers, 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 13 years before showing them. She also worked in pastel. Her first exhibitions, held in the early 1890s, consisted mostly of portraits. She regularly showed work at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris

Suzanne Valadon at 15

Dance at Bougival, by Renoir; the girl is Suzanne Valadon (1883)

Profile portrait of Suzanne Valadon, by Renoir

The Hangover (Suzanne Valadon), by Toulouse Lautrec

Suzanne Valadon - Portrait of Erik Satie (1866-1925) c.1892

One of the first oils, dating from 1893, was of composer Erik Satie. Valadon and Satie had an intense six-month love affair in 1893. A smitten Satie proposed marriage after their first night together but she turned him down. 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."

In Montmartre, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes had an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon, who would become one of the leading artists of the day as well as the mother, teacher, and mentor of Maurice Utrillo.

Suzanne Valadon peinte par Puvis de Chavannes (1880)