Monday 23 September 2019


Born on this day in 1865 was the painter Suzanne Valadon. She is an intriguing figure, who came into the art world by the unusual route of being an artist's model – that's her in Renoir's famous Dance at Bougival (above). Born into poverty, Valadon began modelling at the age of 15, and at 18 gave birth to a son who himself became a successful painter, Maurice Utrillo. She never attended an academy but learnt how to paint by observing the methods of the artists for whom she posed – especially Degas, who, impressed by her early drawings and paintings, befriended and encouraged her.
  Like her near namesake Felix Vallotton, she was never seriously part of any school, and her work resists easy classification.
Her nudes and portraits, painted with a clear strong line and the special insights of a former model, are strikingly honest and direct, if sometimes awkward and  rarely elegant.
 She also painted some lovely still life and flower paintings, drew well, and was prolific throughout a long career.
Valadon, whose life is notably well documented, has long been a subject of interest to feminist historians, so it's rather surprising there hasn't been a full-scale exhibition of her work in London (there have been many in Paris). Maybe one for the Royal Academy?

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