A few of our favorite muses...
Suzanne Valadon was fixture in Paris society for over 70 years. Born illegitimate to a laundress, she was apprenticed to a seamstress by age 11. As a young woman, Valadon worked as a circus acrobat. A serious trapeze injury compelled her to accept the offer of artist Puvis de Chavennes, who asked her to model for him. She became a popular model of the day, posing for Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, and Degas. She used her time in artists' studios to study the techniques of her employers, teaching herself to draw. Her work was of such quality that Toulouse-Lautrec hung selections on his wall, daring his friends to guess the artist. No one guessed that the girl who recently slid down a theatre's banister naked except for a mask was esponsible for the boldly rendered nudes. Toulouse-Lautrec put Valadon in touch with Degas who, despite a well-known misogynist streak, championed Valadon and her work for the rest of his life. Valadon become an accomplished and prolific artist.
At age 18, Valadon gave birth to an illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo. Thirteen years later, she married a businessman and left Montmartre to become a proper country wife. Away from city life, her drawing and painting slowed to a standstill. At age 40, Valadon left her bourgeois husband for 25-year-old artist, Andre Utter. They returned to Montmartre and Valadon resumed her painting.
Early on, Utrillo had shown signs of mental illness. By his early teens he was a violent alcoholic. Upon the advice of his doctors, Valadon taught her son to paint. Utrillo became more famous than his mother and is best known for his depictions of Montmartre. Much of Valadon's later life was spent caring for her son.
In 1938, Valadon suffered a stroke while painting at her easal. She died at age 73, her last painting being Nude Standing By Fig Tree.
Kiki of Montparnasse
Kiki is an excellent name for a world-renown artist and muse. Much better than Alice Prin, which is what Kiki was named when she was born in Burgundy, France in 1901. Poor and illegitimate, Kiki was raised by her grandmother who encouraged her to steal vegetables from the neighbors gardens so the family could eat. Kiki was sent to Paris for education at age 12. and within 2 years the street-smart girl was modeling for some of the 20th centuries most infulencial artists. She posed for Jean Cocteau, Moise Kisling, Maurice Utrillo (who impressed her by painting her as a country house), Max Ernst and Pablo Gargallo. She inspired paintings drawings, photographs and sculptures, many of which are considered hallmarks of their (and her) era.
A shouting match between Kiki and a waiter who would not serve her because she was hatless brought her to the attention of photographer Man Ray, who was eating in the same café. The two quickly set up house together. Kiki became the model for many of his most famous photos, including Le Violon d'Ingres, where 2 superimposed "f" holes turn Kiki's back into a violin. Man Ray and Kiki lived together for 6 years, during which time Kiki began to draw and paint. Her works, in bold colors and an almost childish style, were executed with both skill and humor. A 1927 exhibition of her works at the Galerie au Sacre du Printemps sold out completely.
At age 28, with success as a model, artist, cabaret singer, and movie actress behind her, Kiki wrote her autobiography. Kiki's Memoirs (complete with introduction by Ernest Hemingway) created a sensation in Paris. An English was funded by Edward Titus (husband of Helena Rubenstein) and was banned in the States as indecent-as a result, her book was a best-seller.
As a model for the surrealists, as a cabaret singer in black hose and garters, and as an artist in her own right, Kiki personified the rebellion and new freedoms of her time. Her death at age 52 resulted in a massive funeral with all of Montparnasse in mourning.
The following is a list of women who are
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