The portrait of Suzanne Valadon
In 2004, the Musée de Vernon was able to acquire this beautiful portrait of Suzanne Valadon, drawn by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923), thus adding to a large collection of works by this artist.
Better known for his depiction of cats, his posters and his denunciation of social misery, Steinlen occasionally reveals his talent as a very good portraitist. He depicts the young woman in a bust portrait, concentrating mainly on her face, seen in three-quarter profile from the left, with the rest of her body only lightly sketched. Her right shoulder is not properly drawn, lending an air of incompletion to the composition as a whole. It is Suzanne Valadon’s expression, tense and full of energy, which gradually draws our attention into this sober portrait, drawn with bold strokes of grey pencil.
Archetypal Montmartre characters, Steinlen and Suzanne Valadon could not have been unknown to each other: they frequented the same cabarets in Montmartre (in particular Le Chat Noir), and the crowd of artists who would go or who worked there (Bruant, Salis, Erik Satie, Forain, Willette, Toulouse-Lautrec). Biographies of the two artists, however, refer only occasionally to the circumstances of their meeting which are still little known.
The existence of this undated portrait, only recently identified as that of Suzanne Valadon, raises numerous questions. Whom did Steinlen really depict here: a model, a female acquaintance, or an equal?