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Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel

Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel


This lavish catalogue will accompany the first exhibition at a major American venue of the French model and painter Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938). Despite the popularity and success Valadon enjoyed in her lifetime, her work has been neglected since her death. Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel reconsiders the life and legacy of the revolutionary artist.

From a childhood marked by poverty and neglect, Suzanne Valadon defied the odds to become a successful painter of the Parisian avant-garde. Passionate about art from an early age, she became a popular artist’s model at fifteen, posing for Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, among many others. Edgar Degas encouraged her earliest artistic efforts, praising the use of line in her drawings and introducing her to printmaking techniques.

Valadon was the first self-taught woman artist to exhibit at the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Later, when she turned to painting, she showed regularly at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne. She made a living from her art at a time when women faced countless obstacles to professional success. Despite these accomplishments, her work has received scant attention outside of France. The Barnes Foundation is the first US institution to dedicate an exhibition to Valadon, introducing American audiences to her work and story.

With her art and lifestyle alike, Valadon challenged behavioral codes. She cared little for convention, and in middle age left her marriage in favor of a relationship with the artist André Utter, more than twenty years her junior. While she broke new ground with her portraits and nudes, her reception was often overshadowed by criticism of her personal life, and her fame as an artist was eclipsed by that of her son, Maurice Utrillo. This catalogue looks beyond the gossip and scandals to focus on the unique role Valadon played within the Parisian art world.

Seen in the twenty-first century, Valadon’s confrontational and witty works still challenge viewers with their unapologetic presentations of women’s bodies, female desire, and the conflicts of marriage and motherhood. Always faithful to figurative representation, she refused to follow artistic trends, developing a distinctive pictorial language characterized by decisive lines and bold coloration.

This fully illustrated exhibition catalogue explores the new ways of looking presented in the exhibition. Contributions by Nancy Ireson, Martha Lucy, Denise Murrell, Adrienne L. Childs, Lauren Jimerson, and Ebonie Pollock tackle the artist’s treatment of the female fi gure, her navigation of the art world, and her depictions of an as-yet-unidentified Black model. South African artist Lisa Brice reflects on her interest in the painter, finding resonance between Valadon’s pioneering work and contemporary artists and events. A chronology by Marianne Le Morvan presents a fascinating overview of the artist’s turbulent life.

  • Edited by Nancy Ireson

    September 2021

    Hardback, 280 x 240 mm

    160 pages, 100 colour illus.

    ISBN: 978-1-913645-13-7

  • Exhibition

    The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

    26 September 2021 – 9 January 2022

  • In the press

    "A revelatory new survey" —The New York Times


    "one of the most exciting transformations in art history" —The Washington Post


    "exhilarating tribute to an overlooked master" —Financial Times


    "The catalogue features high quality reproductions and instructive essays" —The Burlington Magazine


    "This enlightening catalogue captures the essence of one of the first modern female painters, ensuring Valadon’s rightful place in the canon of art history." —Woman's Art Journal


    "It is good to be reminded of Valadon's unflinching vision... the illustrations in this catalogue are of a high quality..." —The Times Literary Supplement


    "...the artist who had modelled for Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec brought a new perspective to paintings of women" —The Art Newspaper


    "Great works of art have a wonderful way of shuffling the deck and helping us see things we didn’t see before. That was the special pleasure I found in Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel." —The Brooklyn Rail


    "most interesting when telling her own remarkable story" —Hyperallergic

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