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Renoir's Dancer : The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon
by Catherine Hewitt


Overview -

Catherine Hewitt's richly told biography of Suzanne Valadon, the illegitimate daughter of a provincial linen maid who became famous as a model for the Impressionists and later as a painter in her own right.

In the 1880s, Suzanne Valadon was considered the Impressionists' most beautiful model.  Read more...


 
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More About Renoir's Dancer by Catherine Hewitt
 
 
 
Overview

Catherine Hewitt's richly told biography of Suzanne Valadon, the illegitimate daughter of a provincial linen maid who became famous as a model for the Impressionists and later as a painter in her own right.

In the 1880s, Suzanne Valadon was considered the Impressionists' most beautiful model. But behind her captivating fa ade lay a closely-guarded secret.

Suzanne was born into poverty in rural France, before her mother fled the provinces, taking her to Montmartre. There, as a teenager Suzanne began posing for--and having affairs with--some of the age's most renowned painters. Then Renoir caught her indulging in a passion she had been trying to conceal: the model was herself a talented artist.

Some found her vibrant still lifes and frank portraits as shocking as her bohemian lifestyle. At eighteen, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, future painter Maurice Utrillo. But her friends Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas could see her skill. Rebellious and opinionated, she refused to be confined by tradition or gender, and in 1894, her work was accepted to the Salon de la Soci t Nationale des Beaux-Arts, an extraordinary achievement for a working-class woman with no formal art training.

Renoir's Dancer tells the remarkable tale of an ambitious, headstrong woman fighting to find a professional voice in a male-dominated world.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781250157652
  • ISBN-10: 125015765X
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publish Date: February 2018
  • Page Count: 480
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical
Books > History > Europe - France

 
BookPage Reviews

Model, muse and trailblazer

One of the French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s favorite models was Suzanne Valadon, a working-class teen raised in the Montmartre district of Paris. In his paintings, she’s always softly pretty, vibrant, approachable. Aside from her physical appeal, Valadon was herself a talented artist. Her first serious self-portrait couldn’t have been more different from Renoir’s depiction: She portrayed herself as spiky and tough, with a skeptical look and sharp nose.

That might give you some hint as to why you know Renoir’s work but perhaps have never heard of Valadon. She became an admired professional painter, but she was never widely popular. She was too unsparing, too “unfeminine.” The title of Catherine Hewitt’s biography of Valadon, Renoir’s Dancer, helps place her in the artistic universe, but the book is very much about the Valadon of the self-portraits.

Born in 1865, the incorrigible Valadon was the illegitimate daughter of a linen maid. She became a circus acrobat, then a successful model—and the probable lover of Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others. The latter recognized her talent and helped her connect with Edgar Degas, who became her tireless mentor.

She also had an illegitimate child, Maurice Utrillo, an emotionally troubled, alcoholic artist whose charming cityscapes made them both rich. Valadon eventually married one of her son’s friends, who was 20 years younger than her, and the trio lived a tumultuous life together.

You can’t go wrong with material like that, and Hewitt excels at re­creating the atmosphere of Montmartre as it evolved from bohemian enclave to tourist nightspot. The reader tags along with Valadon to heady establishments like Le Chat Noir and the Lapin Agile, where she stuns the men with her verve and intelligence. Hewitt introduces us to a frank, generous woman and bold artist who painted more nudes than babies. She ultimately overcame the prejudices: When she was 71, the French nation bought several of her works, and her paintings now hang in museums around the world.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews