Jennifer Higgie on Suzanne Valadon
Play • 44 min
In episode 59 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews acclaimed writer JENNIFER HIGGIE on the great Parisian painter, Suzanne Valadon (1863–1938) !!!!

[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]

And WOW, is this one of the greatest stories in art history of the acrobat-turned-artist-model-turned-artist Valadon (born Marie-Clémentine), who grew up in Montmartre, the bohemian quarter of Paris; supported herself from the age of ten; but whose life took a turn after a fall from an acrobat in her early teens! 

Modelling for the likes of Renoir to Toulouse-Lautrec, despite her lack of finances to afford formal art classes, she learnt via the backdoor: by studying her male acquaintances, and close friend Edgar Degas oversaw drawing. 

 Known as a wild character (who spent earnings on lavish fur coats), Valadon had a complicated personal life and was often caught up in passionate love affairs (including breaking the heart of composer, Erik Satie). Taking influence from the glittering, shard-like surfaces as pioneered by the Impressionists, at the dawn of the new century, she had developed a distinct language.

By 1909, she was painting professionally. Defying all gender conventions and exuding the new freedoms of women, she painted herself nude alongside Utter, (her electrician lover twenty-one-years-junior), swept up in an overgrown Eden as characters Adam and Eve. 

In 1911, at aged 46, Valadon had a solo exhibition at the gallery of renowned dealer (and former clown!) Clovis Sagot, and soon cemented herself as a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon. Within the next few years, she would stage more successful exhibitions, and in the 1920s produced her best work yet. One of which was her monumental self-portrait, The Blue Room, 1923.

Lying leisurely in striped trousers and a strapped top, with a cigarette hanging out her mouth and books pushed to the back of the bed, Valadon affirmed her independence and room of one’s own with assured confidence and character. She was a modern Parisian woman in the 1920s, who could do whatever she wanted, whenever she pleased.

She rose to the peak of her fame in the 1920s, and had four major retrospective exhibitions during her lifetime. Through her paintings and prints, Valadon transformed the genre of the female nude by providing an insightful expression of women’s experiences.

Don't miss this AMAZING story as told by Higgie, whose INCREDIBLE book "The Mirror and the Palette: 500 Years of Women's Self Portraits" has just been released! See here:

The Blue Room (1923) 
Adam and Eve (1909)
The Joy of Life (1911) 
Family Portrait (1912)
Self Portrait (1927)
Portrait of Erik Satie (1892)

The Hangover (1889) by Toulouse-Lautrec
Dance at Bougival (1883) by Renoir
Follow us:

Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Winnie Simon
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield
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