Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) was born in Haute-Vienne, France to a single mother. She grew up in poverty and at the age of 15 went to work in the circus as a strong lady and trapeze artist. After performing for a year, she had an accident that caused her to leave the circus and become a professional art model. It is believed that many of the Impressionist artists liked to attend the circus and that is how she became acquainted with them. Over time she became known as the “beauty of Montmartre.”
Valadon worked for a decade as a model. She taught herself how to draw and continued to develop her skills by observing and copying the techniques of the artists she sat for in Montmartre. Being self-taught, she had none of the restraints seen in the work of many of her formally trained contemporaries. Her figures are robust. She is known for her bold use of color, open brushwork and dark lines to define and outline her figures. Most of her work was of female nudes, portraits, still life renditions and landscapes.
Suzanne Valadon was the first woman admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Her work can be seen in the Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, Musée National d’Art Moderne Georges Pompidou, and Musée de Petit Palais, Geneva.