Suzanne Valadon: The Mistress of Montmartre

Rose, June; Valadon, Suzanne

Published by St Martins Pr, 1999
ISBN 10: 031219921X / ISBN 13: 9780312199210
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Synopsis: The illegitimate daughter of a poor country woman, Suzanne Valadon first earned her living as a circus acrobat. Mingling with Impressionists in the clubs and cabarets of Montmartre, she caused a stir with her provocative stunts. When she was eighteen years old, Valadon gave birth to an illegitimate son, the future artist Maurice Utrillo. Posing regularly for Renoir, she became his lover, as well as the lover of others, including Erik Satie and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

Eventually Valadon's own art won the admiration and support of Degas, with whom she shared a close friendship. Yet many were disturbed by Valadon's works, especially her candid and earthy nudes which, like her sexual conduct, defied convention. After an attempt at marriage to a respectable businessman, she fell in love with Andre Utter, an artist twenty-one years her junior. At nearly fifty years of age, she wed Utter and returned to a bohemian life.

Suzanne Valadon reproduces the artist's bold paintings and drawings, as well as letters and personal documents from a woman who left behind few written records. June Rose's assiduously researched biography chronicles Valadon's colorful life and her significance as one of the finest artists of her day.

Review: She posed for Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec; Degas was so impressed by her drawings that he became the first to purchase a work by this self-taught female artist. But though Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) gloried in the carefree, bohemian artistic scene of Paris's Montmartre neighborhood in the 1880s and '90s, she really came into her own during the early years of the 20th century, when a passionate love for a man 20 years her junior led her to abandon a bourgeois husband and devote herself anew to art. She set to work with a renewed serenity but the same "unfeminine" boldness of line and earthy sexuality that had dismayed tradition-minded viewers from the beginning. It was she who taught her illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo, to paint in a desperate attempt to wean him from his addiction to alcohol. His fame surpasses hers today in part because male art historians preferred salacious tales of Valadon's many loves and scandalous exploits to sober assessments of her artistic gifts. British art biographer June Rose restores Valadon to her proper place as a peer of the great postimpressionists in a readable narrative that puts her freewheeling personal life into perspective as a product of the same refusal to be constrained by conventional wisdom that fired her art. --Wendy Smith

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Title: Suzanne Valadon: The Mistress of Montmartre
Publisher: St Martins Pr
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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