September 23 1865 - April 07 1938
Photograph of Suzanne Valadon, unknown date, unknown photographer, courtesy of Gilbert Pétridès
Place of Birth:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Engraver, Etcher, Oil Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Self-taught Artist, Still life Painter
Transforming herself from an artist’s model into a successful artist, and rising from the hardscrabble existence of a poor, barely educated street child to a wealthy lifestyle with homes in Paris and the French countryside, Suzanne Valadon led a truly remarkable life.
The child of an unmarried domestic worker, Marie Clémentine Valadon (she later changed her given name to Suzanne) grew up in the bohemian quarter of Paris called Montmartre. There Valadon supported herself from the age of ten with a series of odd jobs: waitress, nanny, and circus performer. A fall from a trapeze persuaded her to leave the circus. From 1880 to 1893, Valadon worked as a model for several of the most important painters of her day, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. These masters, plus Edgar Degas—for whom she did not model but who became a close friend and mentor—had an enormous impact on Valadon’s life and art. Although she could not afford formal classes, Valadon learned readily from the painters around her. Degas also helped, teaching her drawing and etching techniques.
It was not until 1909, at the age of forty-four, that Valadon began painting full-time. By then her personal life had become complex: In 1883, she had a son out of wedlock (Maurice Utrillo, who also became a painter); in 1896, she married a wealthy older man, whom she divorced several years later; and in 1909, she started living with another man, André Utter, who became her second husband. With her first one-person show in 1911, Valadon attracted critical acclaim and numerous patrons. She continued to exhibit regularly, reaching the peak of her fame in the 1920s, and had four major retrospective exhibitions during her lifetime.
mother and teacher of Maurice Utrillo
wife of André Utter
friend of Edgar Degas
model of Pierre-Auguste Renoir
model of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
model of Puvis de Chavannes