|For a country that offered many wonderful
painters during the late 1900s and the years that followed, a group
of women painters seem to have taken a back seat. But they soon
emerged and are worth studying.
This is not
to say they were the only ones but a few women come to mind whose
work is considered first class. They are Suzanne Valadon and Berthe
Yes, there were others like Mary Cassatt, Camille
Claudel, Sonia Delaunay and Marie Laurencin. But today I want to
introduce you to my two favorites.
Born in 1841, the daughter of a civil servant and
the grand niece of the painter Fragonard, Berthe Morisot, began
studying and copying the old masters during the second half of the
19th century. She became a student of Corot. It was he who suggested
that she paint out of doors.
Later she received more advice from Edouard Manet and in
time she married Manet’s brother Eugene. They moved to Paris. Their home
became a regular meeting place for both painters and writers. The group
included Renoir and Malarme who became a close friend and admirer. Berth’s
painting was mostly of women and children but she did paint out of doors
with suggestions from Manet, her brother in law.
My first serious look at Berthe Morisot’s works was at
the Marmottin Museum in Paris where I was able to examine first hand some of
the most sensuous and delicate work I had seen. Anyone interested in late
19th century work should visit the museum at their first opportunity. The
aid of Eduard Manet is incalculable. He suggested a more conservative
approach and the confining her use of color to a more natural framework.
(It is interesting to note that at almost the same time, Paul Cezanne was
also limiting his use of color which led to his great influence and
success).Her lifetime outpouring includes over 300 paintings catalogued with
an introductioin by Malarme. There is no doubting her great contribution to
French impressionistic art especially using women and children as her theme.
Her work is also delicate whether in her use of water colors or oils. The
delicacy seems to jump off the paper. She can be attached historically to
the work of Mary Cassat the American artist whose theme was very close.
Berthe Morisot died in 1895.
The Musee Marmottan is located at 2 rie Louis-Boilly in
Paris 16th arrondissement
|Susan Valadon had more humble beginnings and went
in a different direction. While she may be well known as the mother
of Maurice Utrillo, her artistic output is well worth a deeper look.
She had worked as a laundress (her mother was an
unmarried laundress), a dressmaker’s assistant and as a
circus-acrobat and after an injury as a model for Degas, Renoir and
Lautrec. But at eighteen she became a mother and was forced to find
other work. Encouraged by Degas and Lautrec, she turned to
lithography and etching. By 1909 she turned more seriously to
painting and became one of the best known women painters of her
time. But her life was short and she died in 1938 after suffering a
stroke. It was her ability to overcome gigantic obstacles of both
class and gender. She disregarded convention and painted both
beautiful and homely nudes from working class communities. She was
the first woman to be admitted to the Societe Nationale des
Beaux-Arts. She worked for over ten years before she showed anyone
When one looks closely at the portrait she did f musician
Eric Satie it brings to mind the fact that as one who enjoyed frequenting
bars. Satie met Susan at a nightclub where he played the piano. At the time
he lived next door to Suzanne at 6 rue Carton. He proposed marriage to her
the day they met. The then struggling musician was obsessed with Suzanne.
Before they split up she did a portrait of Satie which was found in his
apartment when he died.
In her lifetime she did marry but left her husband fifteen
years later when she met and married a painter half her age.
Suzanne Valadon died in 1938 and was buried in the
Cimetiere de Saint-Quen. At the funeral were countless painters. Among them
were Andre Derain, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. One famous painting of
her was done by Lautrec as the subject of The Hangover.
She painted still life, portraits, and landscapes using
Her works can be seen at the Georges Pompidou Centre in
Paris, the Musee des Beaux Arts in Grenoble and in New York at the
Note: Her son Maurice was not aware of his father. He took
the name Utrillo from a close friend of his mother, Miguel Utrillo y Morlius
who owned an auberge.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)