Suzanne Valdon. Part 4 – Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas

Self portrait by Suzanne Valadon (1883)

Self portrait by Suzanne Valadon (1883)

In my last blog, Part 3 of the life story of Suzanne Valadon, I talked about her relationship with the French painter Pierre-August Renoir and looked at his 1883 Dance Series of painting, two of which featured Suzanne.  At the end of the blog I stated that Renoir had nurtured Suzanne’s interest in art.  I suppose nurturing was the wrong word to use as although Renoir’s art influenced Suzanne it was more his dismissive attitude to her early attempts to paint and sketch that had an effect on her.  Renoir had a somewhat condescending attitude towards her attempts at drawing and painting and this along with his preference for Aline Charigot over her rankled Suzanne all her life.  However Renoir’s indifference regarding her artistic attempts galvanised the young woman in her mission to prove him wrong and at the same time it fostered in her a desire to become a great artist in her own right, for if nothing else, Suzanne was a very headstrong and determined character and one who would never accept failure lightly. 

Suzanne Valadon did however receive valuable help and support with her quest to become an artist.  This help came from two completely different sources.   Her initial help came from a young French artist who had just come on to the Parisian art scene and it was through his good auspices that she was introduced to an elderly artist who, at the time, was viewed as The Master of all the French artists.   The young artist was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Master was none other than Edgar Degas.

My Utrillo at the Age of Nine by Suzanne Valadon (1892)

My Utrillo at the Age of Nine by Suzanne Valadon (1892)

Unabashed by Renoir’s attitude Suzanne set about sketching with pencil and charcoal.  She sketched avidly.  Any free time she had from her modelling engagements were spent sketching.  It was in the Spring of 1887 that she first met the twenty-two year old, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who had a top floor studio at No.7 rue Tourlaque, the same building in which Suzanne, her mother Madeleine and her son Maurice were living.  Toulouse Lautrec was once described as having a grotesque appearance.  At the age of fourteen, he slipped on a floor and broke his left thigh bone.  The following year, while out walking, he fell and broke his right thigh bone.  Neither leg healed properly.  It is now believed that this was due to a genetic disorder.  After these breaks, his legs never grew any longer which resulted in him attaining a height, as an adult, of just 1.54 m (5 ft 1 in) despite have a full sized torso.  His walk was just an embarrassing shuffle.  Add to this physical deformity his oversized nose, his dark and greasy skin and full black beard which masked his face, one can envisage the physical and mental torment he must have suffered.  However, despite this, he was quite a gregarious person and had a buoyant character and soon after setting up his studio it took on a new role as a meeting place for local artists and members of the literary set.  Lautrec would often provide food and drink at these meetings and conversation would often centre on art, artists and artistic trends.  Suzanne Valadon often helped Lautrec with these get-togethers and soon she was considered the unofficial hostess of Lautrec’s soirées.  One should remember that Suzanne was quite short in stature and so standing next to the diminutive Lautrec they made for an “ideal couple”.  Suzanne had always been a very good looking woman and so, when standing next to him her physical beauty meant eyes were immediately focused upon her and not her little companion. 

Suzanne was not “backward in coming forward” at these events and would unreservedly give her opinion on current artistic trends.  As ever, her wit and the acidity of her tongue came to the fore ensuring that the evening would never be dull and of course, her physical beauty was always admired by all the male guests.   As Suzanne helped Lautrec to run his parties and add her own brand of verbal entertainment at them Toulouse-Lautrec expressed his gratitude by taking an interest in her early art. He was also the first person to buy a couple of her sketches.   He hung them on the wall of his lodgings and was often amused when visitors attributed them to artists such as Degas and Théopile Steinlen, the painter and printmaker, but all viewers of these works were in agreement that they had been done by an accomplished artist. 

The Hangover; Portrait of Suzanne Valadon by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (c. 1888)

The Hangover; Portrait of Suzanne Valadon by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (c. 1888)

Suzanne and Toulouse-Lautrec would often wile away their time together sketching.  He completed a number of portraits of her but would never pose for her.  One of the best portraits Toulouse Lautrec did of Suzanne was his 1888 painting entitled Gueule de Bois (The Hangover) in which we see her sprawled across a café table.  She received no payment from Lautrec for modelling for this picture.  It would have been unthinkable considering all the help he had given her.  Soon Toulouse-Lautrec began to advise Suzanne, not just on things artistic, but everyday things such as how she should dress what hats she should wear and would often accompany her on shopping trips. 

Portrait of the Artist Suzanne Valadon  by Toulouse Lautrec (1885)

Portrait of the Artist Suzanne Valadon by Toulouse Lautrec (1885)

It was Toulouse-Lautrec who persuaded her to change her name from that which she was baptised, Marie-Clémentine, to Suzanne as he believed her birth name was just too mundane for an up-and-coming artist.  Suzanne agreed to the change of name and she gave Lautrec the very first painting she completed, which had been signed “Suzanne Valadon”. 

It was on the insistence of Toulouse-Lautrec that in 1887, Suzanne went to see Edgar Degas and took along some of her sketches.  She recalled the time:

“…Lautrec’s great brown eyes laughed behind his thick glasses and his mouth was solemn and grave as a priest’s when he told me I must go to M. Degas with my drawings…” 

When she arrived at Degas’ house for the first time,  Suzanne always recalled that day stating on a number of occasions that it was “the wonderful moment of my life”.  She arrived at the house in rue Victor Massé clutching her portfolio of sketches.  She was extremely nervous in his presence.  She recalled the time vividly.  Degas took her sketches, moved to the window to see them better and slowly thumbed through them mumbling comments to himself, occasionally looking up at her.  On completing his examination of her work he turned to Suzanne, who was sitting straight-backed in a chair, and uttered the words that she would never forget:

“…Yes it is true.  You are indeed one of us…”

Nude getting into the Bath besides the Seated Grandmother by Suzanne Valadon (1903)

Nude getting into the Bath besides the Seated Grandmother by Suzanne Valadon (1903)

Degas, who had once described himself as simply a colourist with line, could see the merit in Suzanne’s work despite her work was in a pure and savage state and the sketches were totally without refinement, and yet there was a sense of grace about them.  Suzanne and Degas became good and long-lasting friends.  It was a friendship which would have, in some ways, seemed strange as Degas and Suzanne came from different backgrounds and different social classes but it could be the fact that Degas was uneasy in the company of women of his own social strata and that made Suzanne and ideal companion.  During their many meetings she would show him her latest work which he would assess and give advice and she in return would tell him all the gossip and news from Montmartre, for he rarely set foot outside stating he was too ill and it was also around this time that his eyesight began to fail. 

Although Suzanne Valadon was a self taught artist it is generally accepted that she owed a lot to Edgar Degas.  It was he that supervised her first engravings and it was he who ensured that Ambroise Vollard, one of the most important art dealers of the time, presented an exhibition of Suzanne’s engravings at his gallery in 1895.  As far as Suzanne was concerned, Edgar Degas was “The Master”, an artistic genius.  Of all the artists she came across, he was the one she respected the most.  She hung on his every word, basked in his praise for her work and although he had lost a number of friends due to his petulance and grumpiness, she looked on his irascibility as part of his charm and charisma.  Degas could do no wrong in her eyes.  Degas too loved her companionship and Suzanne Valadon was one of the few people who could call herself a friend of the great man and she was immensely proud of this mutual friendship.

                                                           ……………………………………….. to be continued

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art History, Degas, Female artists, Female painters, French painters, Suzanne Valadon, Toulouse-Lautrec, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Suzanne Valadon. Part 3 Pierre-August Renoir

Dance at Bougival by Renoir (1883)

Dance at Bougival by Renoir (1883)
(featuring Suzanne Valadon and Eugene Pierre Lestringuez)

I ended my last blog about Suzanne Valadon with her relationship with Pierre Puvis de Chavannes ended and she had moved back in with her mother.  That summer she had become pregnant and in December 1883 had given birth to a baby boy whom she named Maurice.   The following year, after she had got herself back in shape and had employed a nanny to look after her son, she went back to her old life of modelling for artists by day and revelling in  café-bar life at night…..    

In 1883, before she became pregnant Suzanne was employed as a model by Pierre-August Renoir.  Besides being an artist an artist’s model they had something else in common – they both originated from Limoges.  Renoir had returned to Paris after extensively travelling around Europe and North Africa.   Despite being moderately well-off due to the sale of his paintings he chose to live in the less salubrious area of Montmartre.  Suzanne and Renoir would stroll along the streets of Montmartre arm in arm and nobody was in any doubt that they had become lovers.  They would go dancing at the Moulin de la Gatte on Sundays and picnic at Argenteuil and Chatou on sunny summer days. 

However, I want to turn the clock back two years to 1881 to look at what Renoir was doing at the time and, by doing so, look at the interaction between Suzanne and him a couple of years later.   Renoir had completed his famous painting Les Déjeuner des Canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party) in 1881 (see My Daily Art Display August 2nd 2011), which had been a group portrait of his friends dining on the upstairs terrace of Restaurant Fournaise which was in the small village of Bougival on the bank of the River Seine.   It was here that his friends would gather to eat and dance and watch the oarsmen row their boats up and down the river.  One of the people depicted in the painting was Aline Charigot who Renoir would eventually marry in 1890 albeit Aline had already given birth to their son, Pierre, in 1885. 

In 1882,  a year after completing the Déjeuner des Canotiers painting he was commissioned by Paul Durand-Ruel to complete three paintings, which became known as the Dance Series.  The series consisted of Dance à Bougival, Dance in the City and Dance in the Country.  These were life-sized works measuring about 180 x 90 cms.  In all three paintings there are two main characters, a male and a female dancing.  In the first two paintings, the model for the female was Suzanne Valadon and in the third one, the model was Aline Charigot. 

Dance in the City by Renoir (1883) (featuring Suzanne Valadon and Paul Lhôte)

Dance in the City by Renoir (1883)
(featuring Suzanne Valadon and Paul Lhôte)

The setting for Renoir’s painting Dance in the City is a high class Parisian establishment, for this is a “white ball”, which was favoured by the upper classes. Although the painting once again depicts a couple dancing, this work is all about the woman as the man is almost hidden from our view.  There is a shimmering opulence about this work.  Renoir has depicted the woman, modelled by Suzanne Valadon, wearing a two-piece white silk gown, – her toilette de bal (dance dress).  The cut of her dress reveals her back and shoulders.  Her partner, was thought to be modelled by Renoir’s close friend, Paul Lhôte, a journalist and writer of short fiction.  He is wearing formal evening wear and the tails of his long coat swish with the movement of the dance.    Both the man and woman wear white gloves which in a way makes the dance a more formal event ensuring that the bare hands of the man do not touch the delicate skin of the woman.  Their hands are clasped as in the Dance à Bougival but in this painting it is just the lightest coupling of hands. 

Suzanne Valadon always maintained that the Dancing à Bougival work featuring her was painted in-situ at Bougival thus implying that she was part of the Bougival “in-crowd”.  In later life she talked about her relationship with Renoir and the Dance à Bougival painting saying:

“…He fell in love with me and at Bougival he painted me in his famous picture…”

However Renoir stated quite categorically that he simply made a few sketches of Suzanne and the paintings was completed at his studio.  The painting Dance à Bougival is housed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston which acquired the work in 1937.  In this painting we see Suzanne Valadon dancing with Eugene Pierre Lestringuez, another of Renoir’s friends, who was an official at the Ministry of the Interior and who featured in a number of Renoir’s works including Les Déjeuner des Canotiers.  In this outdoor dance scene there is not the formality that we saw in the painting Dancing in the City.   Gone is the woman’s formal toilette de bal, replaced by a light pink dress with red piping.  The hands of the dancers are not gloved.  Gone is the man’s formal attire, replaced by a loose fitting blue jacket and wool sweater and atop his head he wears a yellow straw hat which hides part of his face and his eyes.  Gone are the lightly touching hands and in its place we see the left hand of the man gripping the lady’s hand tightly while his right hand snakes around her waist pulling her body into his.  Suzanne wears a large bright red hat, the colour of which draws your eyes to it and, by doing so, we focus on the faces of the dancers.  Look at the faces closely.  The woman pulls her face away from that of her partner and looks downwards avoiding any eye contact with the man whilst he stares at his partner with an unnerving intensity.  What is going on between the pair?  There is a strange uneasiness, tenseness, between the couple. There is no sense of intimacy between the dancers.

Facial expression (Detail from Dance at Bougival)

Facial expression
(Detail from Dance at Bougival)

As the artist, Renoir, was the one to decide on how he would depict the pair’s facial expressions and body language, what made Renoir portray the couple in this way?  Was Renoir in some way transferring Suzanne’s character into the painting?  This was supposed to be a joyful event in which couples twirl in the open air so why this pensiveness?  It is almost as if the man has said something inappropriate to the woman and she is slightly offended or could it be that the averting of her eyes is simply her way of teasing her dancing partner? 

Dance in the Country by Renoir (1883) (featuring Aline Charigot and Paul Lhôte

Dance in the Country by Renoir (1883)
(featuring Aline Charigot and Paul Lhôte

Another question posed by Renoir’s Dancing series paintings that although Suzanne Valadon modelled for Dancing à Bougival and Dancing in the City why did the artist decide to switch to Aline Charigot for Dancing in the Country, who we see depicted partnering Paul Lhôte.  When I look at and compare  the faces of the two females depicted in the paintings I have to say that Suzanne’ thinner and more delicate face  is the more attractive and sophisticated and it could be that for a country dance scene Renoir decided that the fuller face with the rosy cheeks of Aline were more suited when it came to the ambience of the country.  Or could it be that Aline Charigot’s insisted that she, and not Suzanne, featured in the third work. 

The one aspect that the Bougival and City paintings have in common is the distracted expression on the face of Suzanne Valadon.  In both paintings she pays little attention to her partner and lacks the smile which Aline Charigot has on her face in Dancing in the Country.  Is this just coincidental?  Could it be that Renoir’s depictions of Aline and Suzanne give us a better feeling as to how he viewed his two lovers.  

The Bathers by Renoir (1887)

The Bathers by Renoir (1887)

Suzanne travelled to Guernsey with Renoir in order for him to paint some pictures including a nude portrait of her.  Although he later destroyed the painting it is thought that he used the face for the central character in his painting The Bathers which he completed in 1887.  Amusingly, Suzanne was adament that it was not just her face that was used for the painting, but her whole body !!   Their painting trip to Guernsey was rudely interrupted with the news that Aline Charigot was coming to visit Renoir and one can only imagine Suzanne’s anger when Renoir arranged for her to return to Paris immediately so that the women would not meet.  There was obviously no love lost between Aline and Suzanne both vying to be Renoir’s one true love.  As I said earlier, Aline won that battle as she and Renoir eventually married.  

Suzanne Valadon by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1885)

Suzanne Valadon by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1885)

Suzanne’s position as Renoir’s lover ended almost as soon as it had begun but she still modelled for him and in 1885 he completed a head and shoulder portrait of her.  At our first glance of this portrait we are aware of her facial expression.  It is not one of happiness but is one of despondency but it is still a charming depiction of his one time lover.

The Ponytail (Suzanne Valadon) by Renoir (1886)

The Ponytail (Suzanne Valadon) by Renoir (1886)

In 1886 he completed another portrait of her which is sometimes referred to as The Braid (Susan Valadon) or The Ponytail (Susan Valadon) and which is housed in Museum Langmatt, Baden.   This is a far more sensuous portrait of Suzanne and her downward gaze adds to her innate sensuality.  There is no doubt that she was an extremely beautiful woman and one can see why artists like Renoir were drawn to this amazing young lady.  Renoir, besides employing her as a model and becoming her lover, did something else which was to change the course of her life.  He took an interest in her desire to draw and paint and nurtured the idea that she, one day, would become a great artist. 

                                                ………………………….. to be continued.

If you would like to have a more in-depth view of Suzanne Valadon’s lifestory then I would recommend that you read a book entitled The Valadon Drama, The Life of Suzanne Valadon, written by John Storm in 1923.

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art History, Female artists, French painters, Renoir, Suzanne Valadon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Susan Valadon. Part 2 – The artist’s model

Suzanne Valadon

Suzanne Valadon

In my last blog I looked at the early life and upbringing of my featured artist, Susan Valadon.  She and her mother Madeleine had moved from Limoges and had come to live in the Montmartre district of Paris.  They had survived the siege of the capital by the Prussian army as well as the bloody fight between the Communards and the French government troops which followed.  Suzanne had been trained as a seamstress but had ended up as a teenager working in a circus which culminated in her being injured in a fall whilst standing in for a trapeze artist.  She now needed to find an alternate income source……………

A friend of Suzanne suggested that she should consider becoming an artist’s model despite the modelling profession was looked upon as a risqué form of employment and just one inevitable step from becoming the artist’s lover and it was a profession which was frowned upon in many quarters.  Her mother believed that her daughter would become nothing more than a common prostitute but Suzanne, headstrong as ever, was not to be deterred.  Suzanne would meet every morning at the fountain in the Place de Pigalle with other young girls and wait to see if she would be chosen by an artist.  She had a lot of things going for her.  She had an elfin-like vivaciousness.  Her skin was soft and ivory in colour.  Even though she was till just sixteen years of age her figure had ripened.  She was a cross between an attractive and charming child and a self-assured voluptuous woman and more importantly ,as far as her job prospects were concerned, she was just what an artist was looking for.  She was constantly being chosen to model and she adored this new life.  She recalled the first time she was picked out of the waiting group of prospective models and sitting before an artist for the first time: 

“…I remember the first sitting I did.   I remember saying to myself over and over again ‘ This is it! This is it!’  Over and over I said it all day.  I did not know why.   But I knew that I was somewhere at last and that I should never leave…”

For her, modelling for artists meant that she was one of the players on the Montmartre artistic stage.  Her daily routine was fixed.  She would pose for the artists in the afternoons until the light started to fail, then in the evening she would accompany them to the bars and café-concerts and partake in what was known as the “green hour” – the time for relaxation in the pub, the time for stimulating conversation, but most importantly, the time for imbibing the 136 proof, anise-flavoured, green spirit, absinthe.

In 1882, when she was seventeen years of age, she was summoned by the French artist, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, to attend his studio at Neuilly.   Pierre Puvis, who was fifty-seven at the time, was still a bachelor but was involved in a long lasting loving, but non-sexual, relationship with Princess Marie Cantacuzène, the wife of a Romanian nobleman.  Pierre and Marie would eventually marry in 1898, a few months before both of them died, Marie in the August and Pierre in the October.  Despite the forty year age gap Pierre Puvis and Suzanne became lovers and she moved into his Neuilly apartment.  She was dumbstruck by the opulence of his home.   This was a far cry from the lodgings she shared with her mother.  Pierre and Suzanne however could not have been more dissimilar in temperament.  She was wild, edgy and vocal whereas the artist was quietly spoken, laid back, and often lost in quiet contemplation.  She would hanker after a night at a café-cabaret while Puvis wanted nothing more than to go for a quiet stroll with her along the banks of the Seine. 

Suzanne Valadon by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1880)

Suzanne Valadon by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1880)

Susanne Valadon modelled for Pierre Puvis de Chavannes for his pastel on paper work which he completed in 1880.  The nude study was untitled but one can see the physical attraction of the model to the artist.  It is a stunningly beautiful work of art.  Suzanne, like many of the artists’ models had no problems with posing nude and early photograph below shows her in such a pose.

Suzanne Valadon          (photo)

Suzanne Valadon

The liaison between Pierre Puvis and Susan Valadon lasted for six months and during that time he probably became a slightly more spirited person through being around Suzanne and in return he seemed to have instilled a calming influence on the hyper young woman. It was the first time that Suzanne had been in some ways dominated by a man.  It would appear to be a similar situation to the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins scenario in Pygmalion.  Inevitably the liaison came to an end.  It did not end in a fiery confrontation with insults being hurled.  Their liaison as lovers had run its course.  It was just a quiet and mutual ending to a relationship which they had both enjoyed.  Suzanne returned home to live with her mother in her one-bedroom Montmartre lodgings on the rue du Poteau but still on occasions modelled for Pierre. 

Le Chat Noir

Le Chat Noir

Suzanne soon returned to her old ways of modelling by day and celebrating at night and one evening whilst in Le Chat Noir she met Miguel Utrillo, a Spanish engineering student who was studying in Paris.  Soon the two became close friends which inevitably lead them to become lovers.   Utrillo was not the first man since Puvis that Suzanne had slept with as she had quite a number of sexual partners and so maybe it was not surprising that in late summer of 1883 she became pregnant.  The question on most people’s lips was – who was the father of Suzanne’s child?   Her friends would question her and put forward a name, to which Suzanne, not at all upset by the questioning, would just smile and amusingly state: “It could be” or “I hope so”.   Suzanne gave birth to a baby son on December 26th 1883 after a very prolonged and painful birthing process overseen by an irritable midwife and her ever drunk mother.  After giving birth Suzanne lapsed into a coma for two days.  The baby was registered at the town hall in Montmartre as Maurice Valadon.   Why Maurice?   Suzanne’s reasoning behind the choice of name was that none of her recent lovers had the name Maurice!   

Her old one-bedroom apartment in which she had been living with her mother was now not big enough and so after the birth Suzanne and her baby along with her mother Madeleine moved into a three-bedroom apartment in rue Tourlaque.  This was more expensive but Suzanne was not concerned, nor had she been concerned when she was pregnant and too big to be used as an artist’s model and her money from modelling dried up.   She was receiving money from an admirer or lover but she would never reveal the source of her income.  Once up and about, Suzanne reverted to her nights out at the bars and clubs accompanied by different men including Miguel Utrillo.

                                                                                          ……. to be continued

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art History, Female painters, French painters, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Suzanne Valadon | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Susan Valadon, Part 1 – The early years

Suzanne Valadon aged 24

Suzanne Valadon aged 24

In my next few blogs I want to look at the life of a female who was both a great artist and artist’s model and whose name is synonymous with the artistic world of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century Montmartre.  She was, and still is, loved by the feminist movement who applaud her guts and determination.  She is Suzanne Valadon.   I want to spend time and look at the artistic friends she made during her life and how they adored her.  She was, to many artists, a model, a muse and, in some cases, a willing lover.   To fully understand why her lifestyle was as it was, one must go back and examine her family roots and look at her early childhood which was , as is the case for nearly all of us, the sewing and the germination of the seed which would eventually blossom and shape our lives. 

To examine her early life one needs to scrutinize the circumstances of her birth and for that it is necessary to look into the life of her family.   Her mother was Madeleine Valadon who was born in the small rural village of Bessines, close to the town of Limoges.  What we know of Madeleine comes from her own lips later in life and because she frequently changed the facts one needs to be careful as to what to believe.   She maintained that as a teenager she had once been married to a man from Limoges named Courland and that he died in jail when she was just twenty-one years of age but by which time she had given birth to a number of his children.  After his death Madeleine reverted back to her family name of Valadon and returned to her family home.  As a young girl, she was taught to read and write by nuns who also taught her to stitch and sew. She then fortuitously managed to secure employment as a live-in seamstress to the well-to-do Guimbaud family who lived nearby.  It was a position which she was pleased to accept and felt no grief for having to leave her children in their less than salubrious family home whilst she was living in comparative comfort close by.   She soon established herself as the head of the servants in the Guimbaud household and, unlike them, even dined with the family.  She remained in this employment for thirteen years but it came to an end when she once again became pregnant.   According to her, the father of the child was a local miller who was killed in an accident at work.  In later life she viewed the accident which killed him as divine retribution for making her pregnant!     

Naturally the small Bessines community was shocked by the news of her pregnancy and lack of a husband to act as a father figure to her newborn.  The Guimbaud family however treated her well and she remained in their house until her child, a daughter, was born.  According to the official records, the child was baptised Marie-Clémentine Valadon on September 23rd 1865.   It was not until she was nineteen years of age that Marie-Clémentine started calling herself Suzanne and this apparently was the suggestion of her friend, the artist, Henri Toulouse Lautrec.    It is also interesting to note that despite that documented official registration of her birth Suzanne always maintained she was born in 1867. 

Madeleine Valadon with her daughter Suzanne

Madeleine Valadon with her daughter Suzanne

Madeleine Valadon left Bessines with her baby in January 1866 and headed for Paris.  She never looked back.  She never saw or communicated with her family, her other children or her former employer, the Guimbaud family, ever again and one can only wonder why she wanted this complete break from her past. 

The windmills of Montmartre, taken in 1839 by Hippolyte Bayard

The windmills of Montmartre, taken in 1839 by Hippolyte Bayard

She arrived in Paris confidant that she would be able to earn a living as a seamstress.   Madeleine Valadon was amazed at the sight that greeted her to the north of the capital city – a hill on top of which were a number of windmills, a vista which was similar to the rural views back home.  The steep hill she viewed was the Mount of Martyrs, named after the execution of the first bishop of Paris, St Denis and his faithful lieutenants, St Rustique and St Éleuthère in the third century – Montmartre.  Madeleine settled into lodgings at the base of the hill in the Boulevard de Rochechouart and then, with a glowing reference from the Guimbaud family, set off to procure employment as a seamstress.  Her plans did not come to fruition as jobs were scarce and finally, in desperation, she had to settle for the menial job as a scrub-woman, cleaning floors whilst the wife of the concierge of her lodgings looked after Suzanne. 

Madeleine, no doubt aware that for her daughter to succeed in life she had to be educated, and so arranged for a priest to teach her to read and write and then had her attend the convent run by the nuns of St Vincent de Paul as a day pupil for a continuance of her education and to be taught, as she was, to become a seamstress.  However, once again her plans went awry with the start of the Franco-Prussian War which culminated in the siege of Paris by the Prussian army at the end of 1870 and the ousting of the French government, which retreated from Paris and based itself in Bordeaux.  In May 1871, following the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War and the lifting of the Prussian siege of Paris, the French government returned to Versailles on the outskirts of Paris ready once again to rule the capital.  However many of the Parisians, who had suffered during the Paris siege, blamed their government for their misery and deprivation which they had to endure.  They remembered with bitterness the days they had to scavenge for food eating dogs, cats and rats to survive.  Out of this sense of bitterness and betrayal came the rise of the Communards.  The Communards were a group of working class disaffected Parisians who did not want the French government to return to control Paris.  They were very active around the area where Madeleine and Suzanne lived and their bloody determination that the defeated French government would not return to Paris from their bolt-hole at Versailles set up a clash which was in fact a mini civil war and which claimed the lives of more than twenty thousand Parisians. 

Suzanne, during these times of turmoil, had still attended the St Vincent de Paul convent for her lessons and during the Paris siege had been fed by the nuns from their home-grown produce.  However during the Paris Commune clashes between the government forces and the Communards the fighting had been so intense that the nuns barricaded themselves in the convent and closed it down to the day pupils and so Suzanne like many others lost their opportunity for learning and being fed.  Suzanne, who was six years of age and like many children of her age, revelled in not having to go to school.  Her mother, on the other hand, despaired and began to drink heavily.   At the end of the Paris Commune struggle at the end of May 1871 and with it, the return to law and order under the French government, the St Vincent de Paul nuns felt it safe to re-open their convent to their day pupils and Suzanne, who had enjoyed the freedom from the discipline of school life and the boredom of lessons reluctantly had to return to the confines of the convent.  She rebelled and was frequently absent preferring to play in the streets and on the hill of Montmartre with new friends both children and adults.   She mixed with the lowest elements of society, the prostitutes, the beggars and the thieves and loved every minute of it.  Later in life she recalled those times:

“…From that day the streets of Montmartre were home to me.  It was only in the streets that there was excitement and love and ideas – what other children found around their dining room tables…” 

Suzanne lived a feral existence.  She was small in stature and had a fierce temper and would often succumb to uncontrollable rages and on the streets of Montmartre she was often referred to as “The Little Valadon Terror”.   Her mother Madeleine became more morose and apathetic as the years passed.  She lost total interest in life and frequently descended into an alcoholic haze.  She rarely cleaned their lodgings and seldom did any laundry.  She begrudged cooking and having to feed Suzanne and when they ate at meal times they would normally eat apart.  Nothing Suzanne would do would lift her mother’s spirit.   Despite this lack of maternal love for Suzanne the two lived together for almost sixty years.  In later life Suzanne often depicted her mother in paintings.  She would nearly always portray her as being old, wrinkled and toothless but showed her hard at work. 

Le Moulin de Galette by Vincent van Gogh (1886)

Le Moulin de Galette by Vincent van Gogh (1886)

Montmartre since the beginning of the 19th century was the centre of artistic life and drew artists, musicians and writers to it like a magnet.  Studio garrets shot up everywhere in which the artists would paint day in and day out and in the late evenings would look for some respite and so bars and music and dance halls, such as the notorious Moulin Rouge.  

L'Absinthe by Degas (1873)

L’Absinthe by Degas (1876)

The Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes, was a meeting place for the up and coming artists of the time including the “new kids on the block”, the Impressionists and it was outside this establishment that Degas depicted the two drinking companions in his famous 1876 work L’Absinthe  (See My Daily Art Display June 7th 2011).  Another popular establishment was Le Chat Noir, which opened in November 1881 in Boulevard Rochechouart, the same street where Madeleine and Suzanne lived and was run by the entertainment impresario, Rodolphe Salis.  The Divan Japonais, a café-concert (a combination of a concert hall and a pub) was a haunt of the French painter, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.  Probably one of the most popular was the Moulin de la Galette.  This was originally a windmill, one of the thirty windmills on La Butte de Montmartre, which Madeleine saw as she arrived from Limoges.  The windmill owners then added a goguette (a wine shop) which also sold galettes (flat round crusty pastries) and later incorporated a dance hall and restaurant.  It was here that Suzanne Valadon reminisced that she had first set eyes on Degas whom she described as:  

“…a small round-shouldered man, fragile and sad-eyed, in pepper-and-salt tweeds, his throat swathed in woollen scarves…”

In 1874, at the age of nine, Madeleine took Suzanne to an atelier de couture where she was apprenticed as a seamstress.  Suzanne hated the life and made numerous attempts the workplace but unlike the nuns the workhouse owner would beat her when she was dragged back to the factory by her mother.  She stayed there for three years but eventually left and took jobs as a waitress in a café, a push-cart vendor of vegetables and working with horses at a livery stable.  It was this last job in which one of her jobs was to walk the horses around the streets.  People would stop on the street and watch this small young girl with her large horses.  Suzanne, ever the entertainer, was not content with just walking the horses but began to perform acrobatic tricks upon the horses to gain more notice and a modicum of applause.   In later years, she reckoned that a circus owner witnessed one of her “performances” and offered her a job.  She loved this new colourful and exciting life.  Although her role at the circus/carnival was a horse riding act, one day she was asked to stand in for a trapeze artist who had been taken ill.  She had done some trapeze work and so agreed.  Unfortunately the performance went badly and she fell, injuring her back and her circus life came to an end. 

                                                                        …………………… to be continued.

Having been chastised the other day for not acknowledging some of my sources I thought I had better behave myself today and tell you that most of my information came from a book I read (and I am still reading it) on the life of Suzanne Valadon entitled The Valadon Drama, The Life of Suzanne Valadon, written by John Storm in 1923.

Other sites I visited to find some pictures were:

The Blog:  It’s about time


Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art History, Female artists, Female painters, French painters, Suzanne Valadon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Elderly Nude in the Sun by Mariano Fortuny

Mariano Fortuny

Mariano Fortuny

My featured painting today is a reminder to me of the glorious and unexpected summer weather we have been having these last five weeks and the rejuvenation of my battered and old body from basking in the sunlight.  The painting is entitled Elderly Nude in the Sun and was painted in 1871 by the Catalan painter Mariano Fortuny.  Fortuny is looked upon as one of the most esteemed and internationally renowned of the nineteenth century Spanish painters.

Mariano José María Bernardo Fortuny y Marsal was born in the Spanish coastal town of Reus in June 1838.  He came from an impoverished background and attended the local school where, among other subjects he was taught, he was given his first rudimentary lessons in drawing.  He was orphaned at the age of twelve when both his parents died and he went to live with his paternal grandfather, Maria Fortuny i Baró, who was a cabinet maker and amateur artist.   His grandfather continued to look after his grandson’s education sending him to watercolour classes run by a local artist, Domingo Soberano.  He also had him work in the studio of the silversmith and miniaturist, Antonio Bassa.  

As well as being a joiner his grandfather built up a collection of wax figurines which he had made and travelled the country selling them.  He spent much of his time teaching his grandson the art of making these wax figures.  On one of Mariano and his grandfather’s sales trips in September 1852 they visited the nearby city of Barcelona.  It was during this visit that Mariano met the sculptor Domingo Talarn who was so impressed with Mariano’s handiwork that he arranged for him to be paid a small monthly stipend which enabled him to attend the Escuela de Bellas Artes where he started on a four-year art course.  It was here that he studied under the Spanish artist, Claudio Lorenzale y Sugrañes.    

In 1857, aged 19 Mariano won an art scholarship which allowed him to travel to Rome the following year and, for the next two years he studied the art of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods.  At the end of his Italian stay he received a commission from the regional Catalan government to travel to Morocco and record the conflict between the Spanish and Moroccan armies which had broken out at the end of 1859. In the Catalan and Basque regions of Spain thousands of young men with a burning sense of patriotism rushed to the army recruiting centres to sign up for the Spanish army to help their country defeat the Moroccans and the Catalan government wanted to have recorded pictorially their brave fight for their country.  Fortuny travelled to Morocco in 1860 and completed numerous pencil sketches, highly colourful watercolours and small oil paintings of the Moroccan landscape and its people as well as the battle skirmishes.  When he returned home to Catalonia these sketches were shown at exhibitions in Madrid and Barcelona. 

Battle of Teutan by Mariano Fortuny

Battle of Teutan by Mariano Fortuny

Fortuny used a number of his battlefield sketches to build up a monumental history painting, measuring 300 x 972cms, entitled Battle of Teután which recorded the Spanish and Moroccan armies large scale clash in January 1860 which culminated in the fall of the Moroccan town of Teután to the Spaniards.   Fortuny began work on this painting in 1862 but never fully completed it, adding and altering it constantly over the next twelve years.  On his death in Rome in 1874 the painting was found in his studio.  The Catalan government purchased the work and it can now be seen in the Museo Nacional de Arte de Cataluña, in Barcelona. 

In 1867 whilst in Madrid, Mariano Fortuny married Cecilia de Madrazo.   She came from a long line of painters.  She was the daughter of the great painter Federico de Madrazo, a one-time director of the Prado Museum.  Cecilia’s brother was the realist painter Raimundo de Madrazo who became a highly successful portraitist and genre painter in a Salon style.  In May 1871, Cecilia gave birth to a son, named Mariano after his father.  Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo went on to become one of the foremost Spanish fashion and tapestry designers. 

Fortuny was based in Rome until about 1870 after which he made a number of trips.  He then went to live in Paris but when the Spanish-French governmental relations began to break down, he decided to move his family back to Spain and for a two year period, he and his family lived in Granada.  He made a return trip to Morocco in 1872 and later to Rome.   By this time, Fortuny was disturbed and somewhat depressed with the necessity of churning out paintings which were saleable as he wanted the freedom to paint what he liked rather than what was popular and easy to sell.  In a letter to his friend, the prolific French art collector, Baron Davillier, he wrote of his dilemma: 

“…I want to have the pleasure of painting for myself.   In this lies true painting…”

In the summer of 1874 he headed back to Italy and his studio in Rome but stopped off at Portici, a coastal town on the Bay of Naples, where he spent time painting scenes of the Bay and the town.   Sadly, it was here that he contracted malaria which led to his death in Rome in November 1874, at the young age of 36.  

Elderly Man in the Sun by Mariano Fortuny (1871)

Elderly Man in the Sun by Mariano Fortuny (1871)

My featured work today by Mariano Fortuny is entitled Elderly Nude in the Sun which he completed in 1871 whilst living in Granada.   Fortuny was, at this time, at the height of his fame and his works were in great demand.  This painting was one of many life studies he completed at the time.  It is a painting which can be attributed to classical realism.   Note the marked difference to the finish Fortuny has afforded the painting.  The lower part of the torso is just roughly sketched whilst the detail of the man’s upper body and face are finished in such exquisite detail to make the work come to life.  It is an amazing work and reminded me so much of the pained expression and emaciated figure one associates with the crucified Christ.  Before us we have an old man with an old body which is well past its prime.  There is a contemplative expression on the man’s face as he faces the sun with his eyes tightly closed.  I have to admit that my initial and somewhat fleeting glance at the man’s facial expression made me believe it was one of anguish.  However if one looks more closely I think it is more a look of quiet acceptance and even a look of pleasure as the sun’s rays warm up his frail body.  Although it is a somewhat emaciated body we have before us, there is something truly beautiful about Mariano Fortuny’s depiction.

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art display, Art History, History Paintings, Realism, Realism Artists, Spanish painters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Poor Fisherman by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

The Poor Fisherman by Pierre Puvis de Chevannes (1881)

The Poor Fisherman by Pierre Puvis de Chevannes (1881)

My last blog looked at the early life of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes as well as feature a series of four large wall paintings he completed in the 1860’s.  In today’s blog I will conclude his life story and feature one of his best known paintings entitled The Poor Fisherman.  

Following the success of his wall paintings for the Musée de Picardie he went on to complete many other wall painting commissions, such as the staircase of the Hôtel de Ville at Poitiers.  In 1874 the Department of Fine Arts in Paris commissioned him to paint a number of wall paintings depicting the childhood and education of St Geneviève, the patroness of Paris, for the church of Saint Genevieve, which is now the Pantheon.  Puvis procured a second commission  for work in the Pantheon in 1896, depicting Genevieve’s accomplishments in old age which consisted of a single composition coupled with a triad of panels, the whole of which surmounted by a frieze. 

One of his largest commissions came in 1891 when Charles Follen McKim a partner in the architect firm of McKim, Mead and White, who had designed the new Boston library, went to Paris and approached Pierre Puvis to provide wall paintings for the grand staircase and loggia of their new building.  Puvis agreed to carry out this extensive commission despite being sixty-seven years of age.  Then Puvis had a change of heart when he accepted a commission for work in the Paris City Hall and so the following year, 1892, the Americans had to send over another representative to Paris to ask Puvis not to renege on his original agreement. After prolonged negotiations in July 1893 Puvis put pen to paper and the contract for the wall paintings was finalised, agreeing to pay the artist the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand francs.  Puvis completed his Paris City Hall commission in 1894 and in 1895 he began on the paintings which were to adorn the walls of the Boston Library.  To ensure that the wall paintings blended in with the internal architecture the architects sent Puvis samples of the marble which was to be used for the staircase and its surroundings.  Puvis worked on the wall paintings at a purpose built studio at Neuilly, just outside of Paris and completed them in 1898.  They were then shipped out to America.   Puvis never saw for himself his paintings in situ in the Boston library.   For a much more detailed account of this commission it is worth having a look at: 

Pierre Puvis did not exclusively work on large-scale wall paintings, he would often relax by carrying out smaller easel paintings and today I am featuring one such work which he completed in 1881 and entitled The Poor Fisherman, which is housed in the Musée d’Orsay. Although not the size of one of his wall paintings, it is still a large work, measuring 155 x 192 cms.

The Angelus by Jean-François Millet (1859)

The Angelus by Jean-François Millet (1859)

In the painting we see a forlorn-looking man, head bent, standing up in his boat with his hands clasped together in front of him as if in prayer and it is his stance along with the connection between Christ and his Apostles and fishermen, which gives the painting a somewhat religious feel to it.  Is he praying for success in his forthcoming fishing expedition or as some would have us believe it could be that it was noon and, as a practicing Catholic, the fisherman was reciting an Angelus prayer.  This supposition is based on the similar stance of the figures seen in Millet’s 1859 The Angelus painting.   On the bank there is a woman, his daughter, collecting flowers and his sleeping baby, lying on his back in a bed of wild flowers. One is struck by the bleak landscape and the contrast between the seemingly happy female as she picks the flowers, the peacefully sleeping child with the troubled poverty-stricken fisherman as he bows his head down in silent contemplation.   

The work was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1881 and received a mixed reception and was not sold until 1887 when the French State purchased the work whilst it was on show at the French art dealer, Durand-Ruel’s showroom.  So what is there not to like about the work?  Is it just too depressing?  Does it fail to conform to the artistic norm?  In an article in the December 1916 issue of the The Art World magazine entitled “A Trivial Work of Art: The Poor Fisherman by Puvis de Chavannes, the art critic Petronius Arbiter summed up the painting:

“…It is an absolutely trivial work; and, coming from him, was a complete surprise and much criticized at the time. In the first place the lines of the composition are so zigzag that the work is irritating instead of soothing to the eyes. Then the sprawling of the badly drawn child over a low shrub, every leaf and branch of which would prick out of it all sense of sleep or even of comfort, is absurd.  Then the head of the mother is too large, and the hair that of a man rather than that of a woman. Then the man looks ‘sawed-off,’ for he is represented as standing with his knees against a seat in the boat. But where is the rest of his lower legs? The boat is either not deep enough or his lower legs are abnormally short, or sawed-off. This is also manifestly absurd. Then the head is so childishly constructed as to be ridiculous. Moreover, what is he doing – praying, fishing, philosophizing over his destiny, or what? The whole thing is childish to a degree. Here we have a meaningless ‘individuality’ with a vengeance…”

However the article’s author begrudgingly had some good words to say about the work:

“…The picture has but one redeeming feature – its charming colour.  A delicate general tone of mauve pervades the whole creation and the gradation of the tones in the water are so skilfully painted that we are drawn into the far distance whether we will or no.  That is, the values of the picture are remarkably true…”

Le Pauvre Pêcheur by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1881)  The National Museum of Western Art

Le Pauvre Pêcheur by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1881) The National Museum of Western Art

The artist painted another version of The Poor Fisherman in which he depicts just the fisherman and his baby child which this time lies in the botom of his boat.  This copy can be seen at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes died in October 1898 aged 73.   Shortly before his death he married his long time companion, Princess Marie Cantacuzène.   She died just a few months before her husband.

Following my last blog, which looked at the early life of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, I was ticked off by the author Aimée Brown Price for using information from her books on the artist and not acknowledging the fact.  To defend myself I have to say up until receiving her email I had no idea she had written these books and probably took her information unknowingly from a third-party source.  However to rectify my misconduct I have given you below the title of her books on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and I am sure if you want to read a more detailed account of the life and works of the artist they will be invaluable.

Aimée Brown Price, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Volume I: The Artist and his Art.  Volume II:  A Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. ISBN 9780300115710, box set, two volumes, 750 pp. 1200 illustrations.

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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Part 1 Wall paintings

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1882) aged 58.

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1882)
aged 58.

In my previous couple of blogs I looked at two married couples, all four of whom were artists who based themselves around Copenhagen and the Skagen area of northern Denmark.  The two wives, Anne Ancher née Brøndum and Marie Krøyer née Tiepcke both spent time studying art in various Paris ateliers, one of which was run by the French painter, Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes and so I thought over the next two blogs it would be interesting to look at his life story and examine some of his truly beautiful works of art.  In this first part I am going to concentrate on a series of his decorative works – his first set of wall paintings which can be seen at the Musée de Picardie in Amiens, a town in the Picardy region of northern France.  Pierre-Cécile Puvis, as it was not until somewhat later in life that he attached the ancestral name of his Burgundian forefathers “de Chevannes” to his surname, was born in Lyon, into a wealthy bourgeois family in December 1824.  His mother was Marguerite Guyot de Pravieux and his father, Marie-Julien-César Puvis de Chavannes, who was the Chief Engineer of Mines for the region.  His father’s wealth would ensure that Pierre never wanted financially for the rest of his life.  Pierre was the youngest of four children.   He had two sisters, Joséphine and Marie-Antoinette and a brother Edouard.     He went to school at the Lycée Royal and the Collège Saint-Rambert, in Lyon.  Later he attended the Lycée Henri IV in Paris and in 1842 at the age of eighteen Pierre Puvis had obtained his baccalaureate.  By 1843 both Pierre’s parents were dead.  His mother died in October 1840 and his father died three years later in Nice.   In 1843 he briefly enrolled at a law school in Paris but left after a few months. His father had had high hopes that his son would follow in his engineering footsteps.   However, any hopes of proceeding on to an engineering career via the l’Ecole Polytechnique in Lyon were dashed when he was struck down with a serious illness whilst studying for the entrance exam.  For most of 1844 and 1845 he had to convalesce at the home of his sister Joséphine and her husband Esprit-Alexandre Jordan in Mâcon in central France.   

In 1846 his life was to change as for part of his recuperation he decided to go on a trip to Italy.   It was during his journey around Italy that he fell in love with the art that he saw, and the frescos and murals stimulated his interest in painting and so, on his return to Paris, he announced his intention to become a painter.  The first painter he approached for an apprenticeship was the French history painter and portraitist Emile Signon but he was turned down and told to seek out Ary Scheffer who eventually arranged for Pierre to be trained at the atelier of his brother, Henri Scheffer.   In 1848 Pierre embarked on a second trip to Italy, this time accompanied by the painter Louis Bauderon de Vermeron.  On returning from Italy in late 1848, he worked at Eugène Delacroix’s studio but this only lasted a fortnight as Delacroix was taken ill and the studio was closed and Pierre went to work at the atelier of the French history painter Thomas Couture.  In 1850, Pierre Puvis set up his very own studio in rue St Lazare and in that year he had his first work, Dead Christ, exhibited at that year’s Salon. 

Later in the 1850’s Pierre Puvis, art changed and he concentrated on large decorative pieces for large houses or other important establishments.  These were neither frescos nor murals but were painted canvases which were then affixed to the wall.   These wall paintings were often secured to walls by a method known as marouflage where the canvas was “glued” to the wall by an adhesive which when it dries is as strong as plaster or cement.  The terminology marouflage comes from the French word, maroufle, which is the word to describe the sticky substance which has congealed at the bottom of artist’s paint pot.  

Le Paix (Peace) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1861)

Le Paix (Peace) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1861)

In 1861 Pierre Puvis produced two large paintings, each measuring 3.4 x 5.5m, one entitled Peace and the other, its companion piece was entitled War.  The work entitled Peace depicted an idyllic land with figures from ancient times relaxing in a peaceful landscape, with not a care in the world.  In the background we can see people riding horses, running and dancing whilst in the foreground we observe goats being milked.  Fruit is plentiful and we see it being gathered up.    Life in this state of peace and tranquillity could not be better and it is thought that Pierre Puvis based his work on Virgil’s fourth Eclogue in which the poet described such a place: 

“…..the uncultivated earth will pour out

her first little gifts, straggling ivy and cyclamen everywhere

and the bean flower with the smiling acanthus.

The goats will come home themselves, their udders swollen

with milk, and the cattle will have no fear of fierce lions….”

La Guerre (War)  by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1861)

La Guerre (War) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1861)

In the work entitled War things couldn’t have been more different.  Gone is the idyllic landscape, now supplanted by a background showing a gloomy and desolate landscape in which we can see homes burning.  In the left mid-ground we see a soldier in all his armour, with his red cloak fluttering behind him as he pitilessly kills civilians.   In the foreground we see women on their knees begging for mercy as three riders sound their horns.  Could it be they are the attackers sounding off in a triumphal fashion or are they fleeing the enemy and urging their people to hurry along?  Behind the horsemen we see a column of stragglers, some being carried, fleeing the enemy.  Look at the beast on the ground to the left of the women.  See how by showing the white of its eye we get a sense of its fear whilst the other animal, next to it, raises its head, its neck stretched to the limit, as it bellows for mercy.  The French State purchased Peace and because Puvis did not want his pair of paintings to be separated he donated War to the French State.  Following the completion of Peace and War in 1861, Pierre Puvis found himself without any commissions so decided to paint two more works to act as companion pieces to Peace and War

Le  Travail (Work) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1863)

Le Travail (Work) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1863)

He entitled them Work and Repose and submitted them to the Salon of 1863. 

Le Repos (Repose) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1863)

Le Repos (Repose) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1863)

At around this time in Amiens a new museum, Musée de Picardie, was being built and one of its architects, Arthur-Stanislas Diet, approached Pierre Puvis to see if all four of these works could be placed on the wall of the museum’s monumental main staircase and the gallery.  He agreed.  The French State loaned the first two paintings to the museum and Pierre Puvis donated the other two works. 

La Paix by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1867) Philadelphia Museum of Art

La Paix by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1867)
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Four years later in 1867, Pierre Puvis produced smaller versions of Peace and War which can now be seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

La Guerre by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1867) Philadelphia Museum of Art

La Guerre by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1867)
Philadelphia Museum of Art

In my next blog I will feature some of Pierre Puvis’ smaller works and continue with his life story.

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