Whos was Louis Anquetin? | My Paris

Louis Anquetin blogLouis Anquetin (1861 – 1932) was a French painter who is played in My Paris by Andrew Mueller . Anquetin was born in Étrépagny, France and educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen. In 1882 he came to Paris and began studying art at Léon Bonnat’s studio, where he met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The two artists later moved to the studio of Fernand Cormon, where they befriended Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. Around 1887, Anquetin and Bernard developed a painting style that used flat regions of color and thick, black contour outlines. This style, named cloisonnism by critic Edouard Dujardin, was inspired by both stained glass and Japanese ukiyo-e. One example of this can be seen in Avenue de Clichy: Five O’Clock in the Evening (above right), argued by Dr. Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov as being inspiration for Van Gogh’s famous Cafe Terrace at Night.

Andrew Mueller

Andrew Mueller

He eventually fell from the public’s eye after abandoning the modern movements, opting instead to study the methods of the Old Masters. Thus, Anquetin’s works following the mid-1890s, such as Rinaldo and Armida, were especially Rubensian and allegorical in nature. In 1907 he met Jacques Maroger, a young artist who shared his interest, with whom he collaborated. Later in life, Anquetin wrote a book on Rubens, which was published in 1924. He died in Paris.

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Cha-U-Kao, May Milton, and Valentin the Boneless | My Paris

Cha-U-Kao blog

Toulouse-Lautrec’s portrait of Cha-U-Kao

Tiffany Mann

Tiffany Mann

Cha-U-Kao
In our production of My Paris, Tiffany Mann plays clown Cha-U-Kao. Cha-U-Kao was the name of a French entertainer who performed at the Moulin Rouge and the Nouveau Cirque in the 1890s. Her stage name came from the “chahut-chaos”, a dance derived from the cancan. She was depicted in a series of paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Cha-U-Kao soon became one of his favorite models. The artist was fascinated by this woman who dared to choose the classic male profession of clowning and was not afraid to openly declare that she was a lesbian.

Poster of May Milton by Toulouse-Lautrec

Poster of May Milton by Toulouse-Lautrec

Anne Horak

Anne Horak

May Milton
May Milton, an English music hall refugee who was engaged by the Moulin Rouge for a single season, is played by Anne Horak in My Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster captures her off-kilter attractions: pale skin, red hair, a double-jointed leg wrenched out from under the skirt of a little girl’s white dress, revealing a glimpse of a red-patterned lining. Unlike the artist’s posters for other performers, which were advertisements for Parisian nightspots, May Milton’s was created to promote an upcoming tour of the United States that may have never taken place. According to critics, the English dancer May Milton was short on talent and physical beauty. After just one winter on the Paris stage, she reportedly departed for New York, never to be heard from again. Her enduring fame rests on the poster by Toulouse-Lautrec designed for her American tour, which, apparently, never materialized.

Sketch by Toulouse Lautrec of La Goulue and Valentine the Boneless.

Sketch by Toulouse Lautrec of La Goulue and Valentine the Boneless.

Timothy Hughes

Timothy Hughes

Valentin the Boneless
Valentin the Boneless (1843 – 1907), portrayed by Timothy Hughes in My Paris, was the stage name of Jacques Renaudin, a French Cancan dancer and partner of La Goulue. He was the brother of a notary from Sceaux. Not much is known about his early childhood but it is believed that he was a wine merchant by day who was dancing at night in his free time at the Moulin Rouge, where he met Louise Weber, also known as La Goulue. Le désossé and Weber danced the ‘chahut’, an early form of Can-can. He was tall and slender. His name derived from the elasticity of his articulations. He could perform difficult contortions with grace, almost as if he were boneless. He would move from position to position with astonishing beauty. Le désossé was never paid for dancing because he loved to do it and refused pay. He retired in 1895 and what he did after the Moulin Rouge is not well known.

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René Grenier and Henri Rachou | My Paris

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Portrait of Henri de Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Rachou (left) and Portait of Rene Grenier by Toulouse-Lautrec (right)

John Riddle

John Riddle

René Grenier
In the musical My Paris, John Riddle portrays René Grenier. Albert (René) Grenier (1858–1925) and Toulouse-Lautrec were fellow students in the Paris atelier of academic history painter Fernand Cormon during the 1880s and became fast friends: Toulouse-Lautrec even lived briefly with Grenier and his mistress, Lili, an actress and model, and made several portrayals of the couple. They took Toulouse-Lautrec to parties, dance-halls and cabarets, and photographs of the time show him dressed up with his friends in exotic costumes. Meanwhile, another set of friends at Cormon’s studio – Emile Bernard, Vincent van Gogh and Louis Anquentin – widened his horizons artistically and helped him find his own style.

Josh Grisetti

Josh Grisetti

Henri Rachou
Henri Rachou (1856-1944) was a portrait and landscape painter who is portrayed by Josh Grisetti in our production of My Paris. Rachou studied with the great painter Léon Bonnat at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Rachou met and befriended Toulouse-Lautrec there, and famously painted his portrait in 1882. Both artists later went on to study in Fernand Cormon’s studio. Rachou’s work was largely inspired by impressionism, and he exhibited his work at the Salon starting in 1880. He later became the curator of the Musee des Augustins in Toulouse, where he died in 1944.

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Who Was La Goulue? | My Paris

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Louise Weber  1866 – 1929) was a French can-can dancer who performed under the stage name of La Goulue (“the glutton”). She also was referred to as the Queen of Montmartre. In our production of My Paris La Goulue is portrayed by Nikka Graff Lazarone. Very little is known about her early childhood, but it is believed that Louise Weber was born into a Jewish family from Alsace that eventually moved to Clichy, near Paris. Her mother worked in a laundry. As an impoverished young girl who loved to dance, Weber is said to have enjoyed dressing up in laundry customers’ expensive clothing and pretending to be a glamorous star on a great stage. At age 16, she was working with her mother in the laundry, but behind her mother’s back began sneaking off to a dance hall dressed in a customer’s “borrowed” dress.

Nikka Graff Lanzarone

Nikka Graff Lanzarone

Dancing at small clubs around Paris, Louise Weber quickly became a popular personality, liked for both her dancing skills and her charming audacious behavior. In her routine, she teased the male audience by swirling her raised dress to reveal the heart embroidered on her panties and would do a high kick while flipping off a man’s hat with her toe. Because of her frequent habit of picking up a customer’s glass and quickly downing its contents while dancing past their table, she was affectionately nicknamed “La Goulue” (The Glutton). Eventually she met the Montmartre painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir who introduced her to a group of models who earned extra money posing for the community’s artists and photographers. Louise Weber was taken under the wing of Jacques Renaudin, a wine merchant who danced in his spare time under the stage name “Valentin le Désossé”. They danced at the renowned Moulin Rouge in Montmartre when it first opened, performing an early form of the Cancan known as the “chahut.” The two were instant stars, but it was Weber who stole the show with her outrageously captivating conduct.

Booked as a permanent headliner, La Goulue became synonymous with the Cancan and the Moulin Rouge nightclub. The toast of Paris and the highest paid entertainer of her day, she became one of the favorite subjects for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, immortalized by his portraits and posters of her dancing at the Moulin Rouge. Having achieved both fame and fortune, in 1895 Weber decided to part company with the Moulin Rouge and strike out on her own. She invested a considerable amount of money into a show that traveled the country as part of a large fair; but her fans who had lined up to buy tickets at the Moulin Rouge did not take to the new setting, and her business venture turned into a dismal failure. Following the closure of her show, La Goulue disappeared from the public eye. Suffering from depression, she drank heavily and dissipated the small fortune she had accrued while dancing. Alcoholic and destitute, La Goulue returned to Montmartre in 1928. She eked out a living selling peanuts, cigarettes, and matches on a street corner near the Moulin Rouge; no one recognized the severely overweight and haggard former Queen of Montmartre. She died a year later.

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Who Was Yvette Guilbert? | My Paris

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Portrayed in My Paris by Kate Marilley, Yvette Guilbert (1865– 1944) was a French cabaret singer and actress of the Belle Époque. Born into a poor family as Emma Laure Esther Guilbert, Guilbert began singing as a child but at age sixteen worked as a model at the Printemps department store in Paris. She was discovered by a journalist. She took voice and acting lessons on the side that by 1886 led to appearances on stage at smaller venues. Guilbert debuted at the Variette Theatre in 1888. She eventually sang at the popular Eldorado club, then at the Jardin de Paris before headlining in Montmartre at the Moulin Rouge in 1890. For her act, she was usually dressed in bright yellow with long black gloves and stood almost perfectly still, gesturing with her long arms as she sang. An innovator, she favored monologue-like “patter songs” (as they came to be called) and was often billed as a “diseuse” or “sayer.” The lyrics (some of them her own) were raunchy; their subjects were tragedy, lost love, and the Parisian poverty from which she had come.

Kate Marilley

Kate Marilley

During the 1890s she appeared regularly alongside another star of the time, Kam-Hill, often singing songs by Tarride. Taking her cue from the new cabaret performances, Guilbert broke and rewrote all the rules of music-hall with her audacious lyrics, and the audiences loved her. She was noted in France, England, and the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century for her songs and imitations of the common people of France. She was a favorite subject of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who made many portraits and caricatures of Guilbert and dedicated his second album of sketches to her. Sigmund Freud attended performances, including one in Vienna, and called her a favorite singer. George Bernard Shaw wrote a review highlighting her novelty. Guilbert made successful tours of England and Germany, and the United States in 1895–1896. She performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Even in her fifties, her name still had drawing power and she appeared in several silent films (including a star turn in F. W. Murnau’s Faust). She also appeared in talkies, including a role with friend, Sacha Guitry.

Her recordings for La Voix de Son Maitre include the famous “Le Fiacre” as well as some of her own compositions such as “Madame Arthur.” She accompanied herself on piano for some numbers. She once gave a performance for the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, at a private party on the French Riviera. Hostesses vied to have her at their parties. In later years, Guilbert turned to writing about the Belle Époque and in 1902 two of her novels (La Vedette and Les Demi-vieilles) were published. In the 1920s there appeared her instructional book L’art de chanter une chanson (How to Sing a Song). She also conducted schools for young girls in New York and Paris. Guilbert became a respected authority on her country’s medieval folklore and on 9 July 1932 was awarded the Legion of Honor as the Ambassadress of French Song. Yvette Guilbert died in 1944, aged 79. She was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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Who Was Chocolat? | My Paris

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Rafael Padilla, more commonly known by his stage name Chocolat, was a clown who entertained Parisians in the early years of the 20th century, but whose work was forgotten until the late 20th and early 21st centuries when he was rediscovered. This star of French stage during the Belle Époque is played by Darius Barnes in the musical My Paris.

Darius Barnes

Darius Barnes

Rafael was born in Cuba sometime between 1865 and 1868 to a slave family. At the time, slave births were not registered, so his date of birth is uncertain. In 1878, his parents escaped Cuba but left him in the care of an elderly Cuban woman in a poor neighborhood in Havana. This woman then sold him to a Spanish trader as a farmhand for his mother near Bilbao. After his arrival, Basque farmers wanted to whitewash him with a horse brush, but at the age of 14 he fled and began working odd jobs in Bilbao, including as a street singer and porter.

The famous clown Auguste Tony Grice discovered Rafael working the docks of Bilbao, impressed by both his physical strength and his dancing. He hired him as his manservant and handyman and then made him his partner in some of his numbers, in which Rafael would act as a stuntman. The new duo would go on to public notoriety when they began performing with the New Circus of Joseph Oller in Paris during October 1886. Rafael’s stage name of Chocolat was given to him at this time by Grice. In 1888, their partnership was ended when Henri Agoust, the manager of the New Circus hired Chocolat as the star of a nautical pantomime. He saw Chocolat as an potential star dancer and mime, and was proven correct when his first show, “The Wedding of Chocolat” was a huge success. The show grew over the next five years, including teaming up with the clowns Pierantoni, Kestern and Geronimo Medrano.

During this period he met the love of his life, Marie Hecquet; she was married with two children, but divorced her husband in 1895 to start a new life with Rafael. He raised her children Eugene and Suzanne as their own and the family became circus performers. In 1895, Raoul Donval, director of the New Circus, formed a new duo, teaming Chocolat with a British clown, George Foottit. The two performed together for twenty years, popularizing clown comedy, especially with the burlesque sketch William Tell. Both were very successful in forming a comic duet. Unfortunately this comedy relied heavily on “comedic slaps”, making Chocolat a character consistent with the imagery and prejudices of that time; a character that gradually becomes the stereotype of the Negro scapegoat: silly, childish and friendly. Chocolat, however, fought the stereotype by constantly diversifying his skills and careful observation of the skits shows a character not confined to the roles of the subject. The phrase “je suis Chocolat”, meaning “I am deceived”, was popularized by the dialogues in their sketches, introduced by the duo in 1901.

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Who Was Aristide Bruant? | My Paris

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Also portrayed in My Paris by Jamie Jackson, Aristide Bruant (1851 –1925) was a French cabaret singer, comedian, and nightclub owner. He is best known as the man in the red scarf and black cape featured on certain famous posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Born Louis Armand Aristide Bruand in the village of Courtenay, Loiret in France, Bruant left his home in 1866 at age fifteen, following his father’s death, to find employment. Making his way to the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, he hung out in the working-class bistros, where he finally was given an opportunity to show his musical talents. Although bourgeois by birth, he soon adopted the earthy language of his haunts, turning it into songs that told of the struggles of the poor. Bruant began performing at cafe-concerts and developed a singing and comedy act that led to his being signed to appear at the Le Chat Noir club.

Jamie Jackson

Jamie Jackson

Dressed in a red shirt, black velvet jacket, high boots, and a long red scarf, and using the stage name Aristide Bruant, he soon became a star of Montmartre, and when Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec began showing up at the cabarets and clubs, Bruant became one of the artist’s first friends. In 1885, Bruant opened his own Montmartre club, a place he called “Le Mirliton”. Although he hired other acts, Bruant put on a singing performance of his own. As the master of ceremonies for the various acts, he used the comedy of the insult to poke fun at the club’s upper-crust guests who were out “slumming” in Montmartre. Bruant died in Paris and was buried in the cimetière de Subligny. A street in Paris was named in his honor.

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Who Was Jane Avril? | My Paris

Jane Avril blog

Portrayed by Erica Sweany in the musical My Paris, Jane Avril (1868 – 1943) was a real French can-can dancer made famous by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec through his paintings. Extremely thin, ‘given to jerky movements and sudden contortions’, she was nicknamed La Mélinite, after an explosive. She was born Jeanne Beaudon in Belleville, on June 9, 1868. Her mother was a courtesan and her absent father, allegedly, was a foreign aristocrat. Abused as a child, she ran away from home, and was eventually admitted to the Salpêtrière Hospital, with the movement disorder ‘St Vitus’ Dance’ (now thought to be Sydenham’s Chorea). Under the care of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, the expert on “female hysterics”, she received various kinds of treatment, and claimed in her biography that, when she discovered dance at a social dance for employees and patients at the hospital, she was cured. On leaving the hospital, after a failed romance, Jane thought to kill herself, but was taken in by the Madame of a Parisian brothel. Working at whatever day jobs were available, at night she pursued a career in dancing by performing at local clubs.

In 1888 she met the writer René Boylesve (1867–1926) who is said to have become quite

Erica Sweany plays Avril in MY PARIS

Erica Sweany plays Avril in MY PARIS

taken by the beautiful but shy young girl. Using the stage name Jane Avril, she built a reputation that eventually allowed her to make a living as a full-time dancer. Hired by the Moulin Rouge nightclub in 1889, within a few years she headlined at the Jardin de Paris, one of the major café-concerts on the Champs-Élysées. To advertise the extravaganza, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted her portrait on a poster that elevated her stature in the entertainment world even further. The popularity of the cancan became such that Jane Avril traveled with a dance troupe to perform in London. In 1895 the owners of the Moulin Rouge offered her a great deal of money to take on the risky task of replacing Louise Weber, the most famous dancer in Paris, known by her stage name as “La Goulue”.

Graceful, soft-spoken, and melancholic, Jane Avril gave a dance presentation that was the opposite of the very boisterous La Goulue. Nevertheless, the club’s patrons adored her, and she became one of the most recognizable names of the Parisian nightlife. That same year, Avril gave birth to a son but quickly returned to dancing and remained a star for many more years. A woman of intelligence and with a sense of aloof grace, at age 42 she met and married the German artist, Maurice Biais (1875–1926), and the couple moved to a home in Jouy-en-Josas at the outskirts of Paris. However, her husband soon began to stray, often disappearing for days at a time, and for years she lived a miserable existence with the irresponsible Biais. Without any financial support following his death in 1926, Avril lived in near poverty on what little was left of her savings. Jane Avril died in a seniors’ home in 1943 at the age of 75.

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Who Was Léon Bonnat? | My Paris

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In the musical My Paris, Bonnat is portrayed by Jamie Jackson. Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1833 – 1922) was a French painter, Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur and professor at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Bonnat was born in Bayonne, but from 1846 to 1853 he lived in Madrid, where his father owned a bookshop. While tending his father’s shop, he copied engravings, and developed a passion for drawing. In Madrid he received his artistic training under Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, a 19th century Spanish painter. He later moved to Paris, where he became known as a leading portraitist. His many portraits show the influence of Velázquez, Jusepe de Ribera and other Spanish masters, whose works he studied in the Prado. Following the period in Spain Bonnat worked the ateliers of the history painters Paul Delaroche and LÉON Cogniet (1854) in Paris. A scholarship from his native Bayonne allowed him to spend three years in Rome (1858–60) independently. During his stay in Rome, he became friends with Edgar Degas, Gustave Moreau, Jean-Jacques Henner and the sculptor Henri Chapu. Bonnat won a medal of honor in Paris in 1869, going on to become one of the leading artists of his day. He went on to win the Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur and became a professor at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1882.

Jamie Jackson who plays Bonnat in MY PARIS

Jamie Jackson who plays Bonnat in MY PARIS

Bonnat was quite popular with American students in Paris. In May 1905 he succeeded Paul Dubois as director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Julius Kaplan characterized Bonnat as “a liberal teacher who stressed simplicity in art above high academic finish, as well as overall effect rather than detail.” Bonnat’s emphasis on overall effect on the one hand, and rigorous drawing on the other, put him in a middle position with respect to the Impressionists and academic painters like his friend Jean-Léon Gérôme. In 1917, Bonnat was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Corresponding member. Bonnat’s vivid portraits of contemporary celebrities are his most characteristic works, but his most important works are arguably his powerful religious paintings, such as his Christ on the Cross (now in the collection of the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris, but not currently on display), Job (in the Musée Bonnat), St Vincent Taking the Place of Two Galley Slaves (at the church of Saint-Nicholas des Champs in Paris), and the large Martyrdom of St Denis for the Pantheon in Paris. However, he received few commissions for religious and historical paintings, and most of his output consists of portraits. He also produced genre paintings of Italian peasants, and a small number of Orientalist scenes.

The writers Émile Zola and Théophile Gautier were among Bonnat’s supporters. Gautier hailed him as “the antithesis of Bouguereau,” because of the stark naturalism and lack of surface finish that characterize Bonnat’s work. Bonnat was a member of the Institute, one of the only 14 painters who had administrative power over the Academy des Beaux Arts and thereby the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He had friends and connections among the independent artists of his time as well, such as Edgar Degas, whom he met during his stay in Rome and who painted two portraits of Bonnat, and Édouard Manet, who shared his predilection for Spanish painting. He taught together with Pierre Puvis de Chavannes in the private atelier he ran before becoming professor at the École. He supported Auguste Rodin’s candidacy for the Institut, and defended Gustave Courbet’s submissions to the salon. In a gesture of gratitude for the help he had been provided in his youth, Bonnat built a museum in his native city of Bayonne, the Musée Bonnat. Most of the works in the museum are from Bonnat’s personal collection of works of art, amassed over a lifetime of travelling around Europe. Bonnat died on September 8, 1922 at Monchy-Saint-Éloi; he never married, and lived for much of his life with his mother and sister in the Place Vintimille. Some of Bonnat’s more notable students include: Gustave Caillebotte, Thomas Eakins, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

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Who Was Suzanne Valadon? | My Paris

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French artist Suzanne Valadon  (1865–1938) is portrayed in the musical My Paris by Mara Davi. An artist’s model before becoming a respected painter herself, Valadon was part of a circle of artists living and working in Paris’s Montmartre neighborhood at the turn of the twentieth century and was one of the most notable female artists of the period. Valadon is also remembered for her many love affairs and as the mother of prominent French painter Maurice Utrillo.

Mara Davi

Valadon was born in the small town of Bessines, located in northeastern France. Her mother, Madeleine Valadon, worked as a sewing maid; the identity of her father was not known. At the age of five, Valadon relocated to Paris with her mother. She attended a convent school for a few years before taking a job in a milliner’s workshop at age 11. Valadon also worked as a funeral wreath maker, a vegetable seller, and a waitress while still a child. When Valadon was a teenager, she befriended some artists living in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, a bustling artist’s community. These artists helped Valadon get a job as an acrobat at the Mollier circus. Here, artist Berthe Morisot painted the young Valadon as a tightrope walker. In March of 1880, Valadon fell from a trapeze while practicing her act and injured her back. After several weeks she essentially recovered, but remained unable to perform in a circus for the remainder of her life due to the injury. However, her brief stint with the circus remained one of her fondest memories.

After Valadon recovered from her back injury in 1880, she caught the eye of painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. This began Valadon’s career as an artist’s model. For the next seven years, Valadon posed for several of Puvis’s paintings and was presumed to have been sexually involved with him. Valadon also sat for other major Impressionist painters, including Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Some of the more notable paintings featuring Valadon include Puvis’s 1884–1886 piece Sacred Wood and Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1889 The Hangover. 

THE HANGOVER by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

THE HANGOVER by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

As an artists’ model, Valadon became an active member of the artistic community of Montmartre. She shortened her name to “Maria” and became a regular at the famed tavern Lapin-Agile as well as the early cabaret Le Chat Noir. During this time in her life, Valadon made a name for herself as a feisty, vivacious girl, known for stunts such as sliding down the banister at a popular club while wearing only a mask. In 1881 Valadon began a relationship with Spaniard Miguel Utrillo. On December 26, 1883, Valadon gave birth to an illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo, who later became a renowned painter in his own right. Valadon herself seemed uncertain as to who the father of her child was; Utrillo formally acknowledged the boy as his own in 1891, but several other possible fathers have been suggested, including Puvis, Renoir, and another young Paris artist named Boissy. Valadon gave her young son to her mother to raise, returning to work as a model.

Valadon’s first known works, a pastel called Self-Portrait and a drawing of her mother called The Grandmother, date from 1883. During the mid- to late-1880s, Valadon produced many drawings and pastels of people and of street scenes. Her artistic endeavors were assisted by Toulouse-Lautrec, for whom she often modeled and with whom she had a lengthy affair. Valadon worked to hone her skills by observing the techniques of the artists who painted her, becoming a fully self-taught artist over the years. In 1890 she became friends with painter Edgar Degas. After seeing some of Valadon’s work, Degas encouraged her efforts to become an artist, buying some of her pieces and helping her get her career started. Due to encouragement from Degas, in 1894 Valadon became the first woman to show at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, a major French artistic accomplishment.
Valadon became involved with Montmartre stockbroker Paul Mousis, and the pair married in 1896. This marriage provided Valadon with financial stability, enabling her to quit modeling and dedicate herself to drawing and painting full-time. Valadon’s unique style became more apparent once she had the freedom to practice her craft unfettered by financial concerns. Foremost among Valadon’s subjects were portraits of all types and female nudes. In the former genre, she captured an intensity of feeling and depth in her subjects with bold, heavy strokes.

Valadon's ADAM AND EVE

Valadon’s ADAM AND EVE

Valadon’s relationship with husband Mousis was marred by problems nearly from the start. In 1906 Valadon met a friend of her son’s, Andre Utter, who was himself a young painter. Utter was intrigued by Valadon, and three years later the two began an affair. Valadon was by then 44 to Utter’s 23. Prodded by Utter, Valadon returned more seriously to her art, producing a significant number of paintings for the first time in years. Among these works were the definitive Summer, After the Bath , and Adam and Eve. This last painting, modeled on Valadon and her young lover, was the first piece executed by a female artist to show a nude man and woman together. As the relationship between Valadon and Utter intensified, she at first tried to hide it from her husband. However, she became careless and Mousis found out, breaking off the marriage. He officially divorced Valadon in March of 1910.

After the dissolution of her marriage, Valadon continued to paint in earnest, as well as producing a lesser number of drawings and engravings. In 1910 she painted her first landscape and her first nude self-portrait. Despite these advances, Valadon was beginning to be overshadowed by her tumultuous artist son and his contemporaries, including Picasso. When World War I erupted in 1914, Utter volunteered for military service. He and Valadon married so that she could receive an allowance from the military as a soldier’s wife.

Valadon produced paintings and drawings at a rapid pace, and in 1920 was elected to the Salon d’Automne. That December, Valadon exhibited alone at a Paris gallery to good critical reception. For the remainder of her career, Valadon would show frequently to critical acclaim but only moderate sales. Her increasingly unstable son’s artworks consistently overshadowed those of his mother commercially.

Through the 1930s Valadon’s health slowly declined. In 1935 she entered the hospital for complications of diabetes and kidney dysfunction. On April 7, 1938, Valadon was painting at her easel when she unexpectedly suffered a stroke. She died at the hospital just hours later, at the age of 72. A complete survey of her work totals over 475 paintings, nearly 275 drawings, and 31 etchings; this does not include many works destroyed or lost over the years. For years after her death, Valadon’s reputation remained closely linked to her son’s; however, in the latter part of the twentieth century, increasing interest in the works of women artists such as Valadon led to an increased appreciation of her life, art, and contributions.

- Excerpted and adapted from the Encyclopedia of World Biography

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