Suzanne Valadon at a very young age would work as a model for some of the biggest French painters of the 19th C. Meeting them on the streets of Montmartre she would sit for Henner, Steinlen and Toulouse-Lautrec. Although her most famous collaboration may have been with Renoir. In Danse a la Ville and Danse a Bougival both painted in 1883 Renoir used her as his model depicting very different scenes. Valadon in La Ville is elegant and controlled, but in Bougival she is distant, her partner looks to be trying to get her attention. Renoir loved working with her as did Toulouse-Lautrec.
While she posed she soaked up the techniques of each of these masters, storing them away in her mind until she picked up her own paintbrush just as she turned 30 years old. Degas came into her life and admired her paintings and her style, encouraging her to continue and bought her paintings to hang in his home.
Suzanne’s relationships are many and have overshadowed her talent for years. Marriages and a son that never knew who his father was and had a host of his own issues. Suzanne attempted suicide, allianated her biggest supporter Degas but still managed to cut out a life for herself.
Today you can still see Suzanne in Paris hanging on the walls of the Orsay and the Pompidou. Renoir’s Danse à la campagne et Danse à la Ville, two in the series of the three are in the Orsay. All three were modeled by Suzanne but the jealous rage of his lover Aline Charigot and her scraping at the painting forced Renoir to change the model for la Ville to Charigot.
Suzanne’s very own paintings and drawings can be found in the Pompidou. However if you want to get a personal view of her life, head to the Musée de Montmartre. Her former studio and apartment is part of the museum. Walk into her studio where her former easels, chairs and art fill the space with its huge windows.
Learn more about Suzanne in the new podcast that I teamed up with my friend @missparisphotos on, @laviecreative and the new Paris History avec a Hemingway. Each week focusing on fantastic female artists that left their mark on Paris.
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