Marie-Clémentine (known as Maria and later Suzanne) Valadon (1865-1938) was a fascinating woman: circus acrobat, and model for the greatest artists of her times, before enjoying success as a painter herself. Her great beauty, understanding of painting, and her very determined character, allowed her to approach and understand such very different talents as Puvis de Chavannes, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Zandomeneghi, Henner, and Degas. Through her contact with them, she was able to forge an artistic culture and aesthetic which are unique to her.
Puvis de Chavannes, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec produced pictures of her that reveal something new every day. From La Natte [Girl braiding her hair] (Renoir, 1882, private collection) to Poudre de riz [Rice powder] (Toulouse-Lautrec, 1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), via Danse à la ville [Town dance] (Renoir, 1883, Musée d’Orsay] which is shown here, various aspects of the tumultuous private life of this personality are portrayed.
Her son Maurice, born in 1883 and later known as the Spanish painter and journalist Miguel Utrillo y Morlius, enjoyed increasing success as a painter at the beginning of the 20th century, at the same time that Valadon herself, on Degas’ advice, launched her own career by exhibiting at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1894.
Recognised immediately as an artist in her own right, she painted and exhibited until her death: her works are noted for their strong composition and vibrant colours (eg. Portrait d’Erik Satie, 1893, and Adam et Eve, 1909).