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To Suzanne Valadon on Mother's Day

Just below Sacre Coeur in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris, there is a small blue marker that reads, “Place Suzanne Valadon.” Unknown by name to many Americans, Valadon is instantly recognized by sight as the model for countless paintings by Renoir, Degas and Lautrec.

Suzanne Valadon as model for Renoir's Dance at Bougival
Suzanne Valadon as model for Renoir’s Dance at Bougival

While working as a model, Suzanne began to draw and paint on her own. When Lautrec found a few of her sketches, he insisted that she show them to Degas for his opinion. Degas immediately bought several of her drawings, and with his encouragement and guidance, Valadon became a successful artist in her own right.

At some point in her younger life, she had an illegitimate son who was plagued with both emotional and alcohol problems by his teens. In an effort to save him from himself, Suzanne taught her young son the only trade she knew. He would go on to become one of Montmartre’s most famous artists – Maurice Utrillo.

Suzanne Valadon with her son Maurice Utrillo
Suzanne Valadon with her son, Maurice Utrillo

The art of mother and son is currently featured side by side at an exhibition (which runs through September 15, 2009) at the Pinacothèque museum in Paris entitled: Valadon – Utrillo.

Learn More:

Valadon – Utrillo at Pinacothèque de Paris (site in French)

Suzanne: Of Love and Art by Elaine Todd Koren