Monday, March 3, 2008

500 Years...Suzanne Valadon

I was in conversation about the Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre recently, and that put me in mind of Suzanne Valadon.

Last November I posted a video montage from YouTube, called 500 Years of Women in Western Art. Later we saw Lord Leighton's Pavonia in some detail. The 56th painting in the montage (about a minute and 43 seconds in) is Girl Braiding Her Hair by Renoir:

That's not just some hapless model, working for cinq sous and a crust of baguette. That's the French painter Suzanne Valadon. An artist in her own right, she produced this marvelous self-portrait (notice the brows!):

If you're curious to know more, June Rose wrote The Mistress of Montmartre, an impeccably researched, very detailed and well-written page-turner on Valadon's role in the Parisian art scene, and on life in Paris itself.

Scroll-down art world trivia: Valadon's life was beyond merely interesting. Here are some tid-bits. Suzanne Valadon:
  • Was a circus acrobat as a teenager.
  • Once worked on an oil painting for 13 years before deeming it "ready" for public display.
  • Posed for The Hangover by Toulouse-Lautrec.
  • Gave birth out of wedlock to Maurice Utrillo, a well-known painter as well.
  • Had affairs with Renoir and the composer Erik Satie. She must have had great gymnopĂ©dies, because he proposed marriage after their first night together. She turned him down. Hey-ohhhh!
There's a horrible novelization of her story called Suzanne: Of Love and Art. Skip it!

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