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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Suzanne Valadon

b. 1865, Bessines-sur-Gartempe, near Limoges, France; d. 1938, Paris

An artist’s model with larger aspirations, Suzanne Valadon taught herself to draw at the age of nine. She worked as a dressmaker and circus acrobat before becoming a model. In the early 1880s, while living in the Montmartre district of Paris, she began sitting for artists such as Puvis de Chavannes and Auguste Renoir. At the same time, she produced her first works in pastels. Renoir and Degas encouraged her art; Degas introduced her to collectors and taught her printmaking techniques. Marriage in 1896 brought financial stability and she was able to quit modeling. She maintained a studio at Montmartre and developed her painting skills, creating unidealized nudes of working-class women, richly colored landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. Critical and commercial success came after World War I. She exhibited regularly at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, had four retrospectives (1927–32), and participated in the Salons of Modern Women Artists (1933–38).