And now, in the spirit of celebrating under-recognized female painters, immortalized in oil by the artists for whom they modeled, let's talk about the lovely Suzanne Valadon. She, like Victorine Meurent (whom we talked about last week), modeled for Renoir, Degas, pretty Berthe Morisot, and Toulouse-Lautrec.
The child of a laundress, Valadon began working as a circus acrobat at the age of 15. But when a fall from a trapeze ended her career two years later, she was forced to turn to modeling for money. Of course, modeling for artists usually led to more intimate relationships, and apparently, it was not long before she was pregnant. According to a bawdy joke later told by Diego Rivera, she first went to Renoir, but he disavowed paternity, indicating the color was all wrong. Next, she went to Degas, who indicated the form was all wrong for the baby to be his. Finally, after she belched her tale of woe to a Spanish painter named Miguel Utrillo y Molins, he declared, "I would be glad to put my name to the work of either Renoir or Degas!" And so, Maurice Valadon (the baby in question) was officially (if not accurately) legitimized and became Maurice Utrillo. Thanks to Valadon's training and encouragement, Utrillo, who long suffered from emotional difficulties and alcoholism, became a successful artist in his own right. But that's another story for another time.
|Suzanne Valadon. Reclining Nude, 1928. |
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
|Suzanne Valadon, |
Portrait of Erik Satie.
Interesting is that one of Valadon's most famous works, The Blue Room, seems to reference Victorine, since it bears a strong resemblance to Manet's Olympia.
|Suzanne Valadon, The Blue Room|