Interesting Women: M.-C. Valadon

The sixteen year old artist Marie-Clémentine grabbed only air and slammed into the arena of  the circus Mollier: Her career as rope-dancer and trapeze artiste was definitely ended. This happened 1880 or 1881.

Marie-Clémentine VALADON (1865-1938) (Ger., Eng.) was the illegal daughter of a laundress, and born in the French province; she and her mother went to Paris 1870, just in time for the German troops encircling the capital (September 1870) and the commune (Ger., Eng.) of spring 1871 – but that’s not of interest here.
She visited a catholic school but had to leave at eleven, learned and worked as milliner – Putzmacherin – , servant or waitress and generally run around her quartier, butte Montmatre (Ger., Eng.) – the old Roman mons Martis that became the Franconian mons martiris, the hill over Paris where a bustling entertainment and amusement district developed exactly in Marie-Clémentine’s youth: She will stay here for the rest of her life.
When her bones had grown together again she started working as model for the artists who gathered in the quartier. She was pretty generous with her favour. The relation with Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (Ger., Eng.) must have been intense; he helped her developing her painting skills and made her use the nom d’artiste Suzanne. But more important was her friendship with Edgar DEGAS (Ger., Eng.) – what Henry watched with jealousy –  who teached her the art of etching (Ger., Eng.) and other crafts and techniques. She had a first exhibition 1894,  her first etchings were published 1895. DEGAS was it who started to buy her art and raised interest from collectors and gallery owners. She moved from drawing to painting, from black and white into colour. (Examples here.)
Her son was born 1883 and named Maurice (Ger., Eng.). The father remains unknown. Later the boy was adopted by a Spanish critic of the name Miguel UTRILLO, but he did not like the name. Some not very nice anecdotes about the paternity were told, no need to repeat. Sadly Suzanne calmed her child with Cognac and Maurice hence had his first withdrawal treatment with 17. Back from rehab his mother made him paint (examples),  successfully. I like his white unpeopled street scenes.
Finally their art was collected and paid for and Maurice and Suzanne, together with her longtime partner André UTTER (1886-1948), whom she met 1909 and married 1914, finally were able to build a villa in rue Junot, ‘where they lived happily until their death.’ I could not find a biographical article about UTTER, but he is mentioned and depicted in this biography of Suzanne.

Suzanne died from a stroke, painting. Maurice suffered a breakdown and Utter led the funeral procession.

An interesting woman.


Do not hesitate to visit the blog of GERALDGEE, who put up an interesting collage of UTRILLO’s street scenes ‘The World of Maurice Utrillo’  (here) – I have to confess that I did not think of looking at youtube for ‘Utrillo’ or ‘Valadon’ or other non-musicians. My outdated mental map of media connected youtube still with ‘musicvideo’ only, but change is under way.