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Suzanne Valadon: an artist without limits
Articles | 31 ENE 2024 Por Valeria Correa

Throughout history it is difficult to find spirits as free as artists among other historical personalities. However, even artists lived through different types of limitations that set guidelines for their artistic creation, such as: sponsorships, censorship of the time, social stratum and, above all, differences by gender.


All those aspects played against Suzanne Valadon at the beginning of her life, but she knew how to move in her environment and change her circumstances in her favor. Born in Paris, she was the only child of a single mother with whom she faced various difficulties, mainly economic ones. Her mother worked as a washerwoman and lived humbly in Montmartre, however growing up in that neighborhood was the first thing that played in Suzanne's favor. The bohemian atmosphere, the bars, cabarets, the artists and the recreational activities were leaving their mark on her, developing her facet as a painter. Throughout history it is difficult to find spirits as free as artists among other historical personalities. However, even artists lived through different types of limitations that set guidelines for their artistic creation, such as: sponsorships, censorship of the time, social stratum and, above all, differences by gender.

Suzanne's entry as an active agent of that environment, was when she joined a circus at the age of 15 and worked as a trapeze artist there, until she had a fall in a practice and had to leave that job. However, this was part of what led Valadon to work as a model for artists and so she began to live on that world.


She quickly became famous among the artists and sought-after to model, since she was not only young, she had a great beauty complemented by blue eyes with a penetrating look that inspired anyone. This not only helped her get closer to painting, but also to survive and sustain herself, which was not easy considering that at the age of 18 she brought into the world her only son, Maurice Valadon, who would later become the well-known artist Maurice Utrillo.

Suzanne did not have a formal artistic education in any academy and her beginnings were not with painting, they were with drawing; she learned techniques by observing the artists for whom she modeled and decided to practice by herself. Among the artists for whom he modeled are: Renoir, De Chavannes, Degas and, of course, Toulouse-Lautrec.


Lautrec was the one who encouraged Valadon to seriously try a career as an artist, he admired the lines, the quality in them and the sensitivity with which Suzanne represented the things she observed. Seeing the amount of potential and merit in Valadon, Lautrec decided to bring her closer to an artist who, by her style, was more suitable to help the young woman who was beginning to manifest hers, so he wrote her a letter of recommendation for Degas to accept her as a student.

Degas was able to recognize in Valadon everything Lautrec had promised and that's how the artist's journey began. First she focused on the drawings and when she had no objections to her advances, she experienced the color and its possibilities by adding the use of pastel colors to her compositions. Valadon is known for having an intimate view of every moment, people and the body, while at the same time handling a bright and rich palette, more representative than realistic.


The themes he painted were somewhat revolutionary for his time, not because no one has done them before, but because they were not allowed for women, specifically nude. Unlike Morisot and Cassatt, Valadon was not part of a family that was part of the bourgeois social sphere, so there was no pressure or rules on her that prohibited her from experimenting with painting beyond landscaping, still lifes and portraiture.

Valadon did paint the previous themes, but it was controversial that she could paint nudes and not only that, she did both feminine and masculine. In addition, she was as controversial in painting as in her private life, however, this did not prevent her from enjoying success in her career and leading a life without real economic concerns. She even became the first woman to administer the National Society of Fine Arts.


She became an indispensable personality in the art scene in Paris, especially in painting, and led a life in which the ties that her contemporaries faced could not cope with her. She grew up in a complicated situation, became a single mother and never had a safe job, but her talent, intellect and ability to create good relationships led her to a completely different life.

Her funeral was attended by several of her artist friends, including: Picasso, Derain and Braque. And thanks to her wide social circle, today we know aspects of his personality, such as that no matter how carefree she was in personal aspects, she was extremely perfectionist in her work and her extravagant personality, manifested herself in multiple aspects of her life. That is why Valadon was able to turn every disadvantage that was presented to her into strengths, making his passage through life so different from that of any other artist and any other woman as to go to history.

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