Adam and Eve or Suzanne and André?

[Adam and Eve (1909) Oil on canvas (162 cm x 131 cm)]

Suzanne Valadon (23 September 1865 – 7 April 1938) was a French artists’ model and painter born Marie-Clémentine Valadon at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, in France. She was also the mother of painter Maurice Utrillo (born 1883).

The daughter of an unmarried laundress, Valadon began working from the age of 11, including a stint as a factory-hand making funeral wreaths. By the age of 15 she became a circus acrobat but a year later, a fall from a trapeze ended that career. For the next 10 years, Valadon modeled under the name “Maria” for many artists including Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, Théophile Steinlen, Pierre-Auguste Renoir; and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (who called her “Suzanne“); and was thought to have had many affairs with the artists she modeled for. Valadon was also known to be good friends with Edgar Degas, whom she befriended in the early 1890s. He became impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings, purchasing some of her work and encouraged her efforts. In fact, she remained one of Degas’s closest friends until his death.

Valadon’s paintings feature rich colours and bold, open brushwork often featuring firm black lines to define and outline her figures, emphasizing the structure of the body. Her first models were her family members, often her son, mother, or niece. Her first exhibitions held in the early 1890s, consisted mostly of portraits, including one of Erik Satie’; with whom she had an affair in 1893. In 1896, Valadon married a stockbroker Paul Moussis.

  • By 1909, at the age of 44, Valadon began an affair with 23 year old painter André Utter; a friend of her son. Adam and Eve, (pictured above) was painted the same year and is said to be a depiction of Utter and herself.

After divorcing Moussis in 1913, Valadon married Utter the following year. During their marriage he managed both Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo’s art careers. Valadon and Utter worked and exhibited together until they divorced in 1934.

  • Valadon produced around 300 drawings and over 450 oil paintings.
  • Many of her works are among the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Grenoble, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
  • Suzanne Valadon died of a stroke on 7 April 1938, at age 72, and was buried in the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen in Paris.

A small square at the base of the Montmartre funicular in Paris is named Place Suzanne Valadon.

Adam and Eve or Suzanne and André?
Apple of her eye? – Couldn’t give a fig (leaf)

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Source: Dorival, Bernard. The School of Paris in the Musee  D’Art Moderne. Thames & Hudson, London 1962
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