Suzanne Valadon

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When it comes to overlooked artists, Suzanne Valadon definitely belongs in this category. The French self-taught artist stirred a myriad of emotions in the elite artistic circles of Paris due to her unconventional life style which consisted of having torrid affairs with other artists, noblemen, musicians, artists, her poor background and her utter refusal to bow down to society’s traditions. In many ways she was a diamond in the rough, despite no training she self-taught herself art and rose from being a poor and uneducated circus acrobat to become one of the most notable artists of Paris. It was also Valadon’s determination to succeed as an artist in her own right, as a woman who never had any access to any formal art training, which makes her story so compelling and one to remember. Another reason why people had difficulty warming to her was due to her subject matter of nudity – often the male form – it was difficult for some conservative minds to digest during those times. Nevertheless as an artist she stood out due to her use of bold colors and subject matters. She went onto give birth to a son who would grow up to become another noted artist just like his mother, Maurice Utrillo.

Born as Marie Clementine Valadon in 1865 in Bessines-sur-Gertumpe, France, the child of an unmarried poor laundress. Valadon’s determination was strongly linked to her tough childhood; she was not even in her teens when she had to financially support herself. She took up odd jobs including being a circus acrobat, waitress, and then eventually an artist’s model posing for some famous artists like Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Pierre Auguste Renoir. It was her first exposure to the art world and soon she started observing these artists and noting down their painting techniques and how to draw and experiment with colors. Valadon started producing her own works and drawings. She was a young, striking beauty with an insatiable appetite for life, hence it comes as no surprise that she had a strong of lovers and gave birth to a son by the age of 18. This son would go on to become the artist Maurice Utrillo, the father’s name was never really discussed. She also went onto marry a businessman after a few years but the marriage didn’t last but what emerged from that was a much more sophisticated and unique style of painting. The subjects of her drawings and paintings began to expand to include female nudes, portraits, still life and landscapes. Valadon was anything but a fool, she knew that her background would create a lot of hurdles for her artistic career but she never backed down and seized every opportunity which came her way.

Valadon drew a lot from the creativity which surrounded her active social life as she mingled with many artists and went on to defy the conventions of her gender. Despite the presence of other strong female artists, Valadon’s story is unique as she came from no affluent background and rose from an impoverished history, her love and passion for art and life made her one of the most vibrant artists to grace the world.

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