Suzanne Valadon was the daughter of an unmarried laundress and had to begin work at eleven years old to earn money. They lived the bohemian section of Paris, called Montmartre. Her first entry to art was as an artist model. She posed for Renoir’s famous Dance at Bougival and Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting The Hangover. Encouraged by Degas, she began to paint. It is believed she is mostly self-taught and perhaps had lessons from artist friends.
Valadon is known for painting women, especially nudes, which was very unusual for female painter in this day. Of course there was nothing typical about Suzanne Valadon. She was independent, rebellious and accomplished in a male dominated art world. She also painted landscapes and still lifes. Valadon painted with oil paint and pencils, pastels, and chalk. Her style incorporated rich colors and bold brushwork with black lines to define her figures and structure of the body.
Suzanne Valadon had many love affairs and did marry once, but it ended in divorce. One lover resulted in the birth of baby boy, Maurice Utrillo, who would grow up to become an even more famous artist then his mother.
In 1894, Valadon became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Today, Suzanne Valadon’s works can be seen at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Grenoble, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.