Suzanne Valadon (23 Sept. 1865 - 7 April 1938); French painter and artists' model, born Marie-Clémentine Valadon at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France. In 1894, Valadon became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She was also the mother of painter Maurice Utrillo. The subjects of her drawings and paintings included mostly female nudes, female portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. She never attended the academy and was never confined within a tradition. Valadon spent nearly 40 years of her life as an artist.

... one of the few artists ever to begin her working life as a circus acrobat. A serious fall from a trapeze ended her performing career at the age of 15; after she recovered she found work as an artist's model. An intelligent as well as attractive young woman, she took an interest in the work the artists were producing, and soon began drawing and painting on her own. Recognizing her talent and drive, some of the artists she'd befriended such as Toulouse-Lautrec gave her lessons and encouragement. Edgar Degas was also supportive of the young artist, buying her work and giving her advice and introductions....

Valadon was a free spirit, and in 1898 she gave birth to a baby boy, later known as the artist Maurice Utrillo whom she tutored and assisted with his career.... she became especially well-known for her portraits of nude women, a highly unusual choice at the time. Her female nudes still intrigue viewers today possibly because of their bold execution and idiosyncratic emotional content...the women may be nude but they are strong and in control of their nudity. They are not merely pin-up girls or shadow servants of "the male gaze" but real people, with definite personalities, and seem to have agendas of their own. (In a way, Valadon's work prefigures the work of 20th century artist Alice Neel.)....
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Suzan Hamer


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