(1865, Bessines-sur-Gartempes- 1938, Paris)
Marie Clementine Valadon, better known as Suzanne Valadon, is a French painter. Daughter of a laundress, Suzanne Valadon became a circus acrobat in 1880, until a fall put a premature end to this activity. In the Montmartre neighborhood where she lives first with her mother, then with her son, the future painter Maurice Utrillo, born in 1883, she has the opportunity to learn the art.
Her beauty attracts the eye of artists and, as she became their model, she observes their work, and so learn their techniques. Model for Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre-Auguste Renoir or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, she builds relationships with them. She frequents the bars of Montmartre where the Parisian bourgeoisie comes slumming. During this period, Toulouse-Lautrec makes her portrait titled Gueule de Bois.
Edgar Degas, quickly remarks the sharp lines of her drawings and paintings, he encourages her efforts. She knows some success and managed to get free from financial difficulties of her youth.
Suzanne Valadon painted still lifes, bouquets and landscapes, remarkable by the force of their composition and vibrant colors. She is also known for her nudes. Her first exhibitions in the early 1890s mainly include portraits, notably that of Erik Satie with whom she has a relationship in 1893.
In 1894, Suzanne Valadon was the first woman admitted to the National Society of Fine Arts. Perfectionist, she can work several years on one paintings before exhibiting it.
The painter find in the gallery owner Berthe Weill a solid ally that supports her work. She promoted Suzanne Valadon’s work with nearly nineteen exhibitions between 1913 and 1932, including three personal retrospectives.
Her marriage in 1896 with a stockbroker, ends up in 1909. Suzanne then leaves her husband for her son's friend, the painter André Utter (1886-1948), whom she married in 1914. This union harsh nearly thirty years. In 1923 she bought with Utter the Castle of St. Bernard, in the north of Lyon, to cut with her son’s penchant for alcohol.
At the end of her life, Suzanne Valadon became friends with the painter Gazi Tatar and, moved by this encounter, began to paint again.
Suzanne Valadon died on April 7th, 1938, surrounded by her friends André Derain, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. She is buried in the Parisian cemetery of Saint-Ouen.
Her works are kept in many museums, including the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Grenoble, the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon. A permanent exhibition is dedicated to her in Bessines-sur-Gartempe (Haute-Vienne), her hometown.