Renoir's Dancer
Catherine Hewitt's richly told biography of Suzanne Valadon, the illegitimate daughter of a provincial linen maid who became famous as a model for the Impressionists and later as a painter in her own right.In the 1880s, Suzanne Valadon was considered the Impressionists’ most beautiful model. But behind her captivating façade lay a closely-guarded secret.Suzanne was born into poverty in rural France, before her mother fled the provinces, taking her to Montmartre. There, as a teenager Suzanne began posing for—and having affairs with—some of the age’s most renowned painters. Then Renoir caught her indulging in a passion she had been trying to conceal: the model was herself a talented artist.Some found her vibrant still lifes and frank portraits as shocking as her bohemian lifestyle. At eighteen, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, future painter Maurice Utrillo. But her friends Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas could see her skill. Rebellious and opinionated, she refused to be confined by tradition or gender, and in 1894, her work was accepted to the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, an extraordinary achievement for a working-class woman with no formal art training.Renoir’s Dancer tells the remarkable tale of an ambitious, headstrong woman fighting to find a professional voice in a male-dominated world.

Renoir's Dancer Details

TitleRenoir's Dancer
Author
ReleaseFeb 27th, 2018
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
ISBN-139781250157652
Rating
GenreBiography, Art, Nonfiction, Cultural, France, History

Renoir's Dancer Review

  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    "The pain passes, but the beauty remains." (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)And sometimes that pain leaves scars unseen with the human eye. Scars kept hidden in the deep folds of life known only by the one who bears their weight. Catherine Hewitt presents a fascinating glimpse into the life of Suzanne Valadon, artists' model and an eventual artist herself during the gentle and calming wave of the Impressionists movement that revolutionized the art world in France and far beyond. Hewitt begins her story in "The pain passes, but the beauty remains." (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)And sometimes that pain leaves scars unseen with the human eye. Scars kept hidden in the deep folds of life known only by the one who bears their weight. Catherine Hewitt presents a fascinating glimpse into the life of Suzanne Valadon, artists' model and an eventual artist herself during the gentle and calming wave of the Impressionists movement that revolutionized the art world in France and far beyond. Hewitt begins her story in 1849 with Madeleine Valadon, a humble linen maid, living within the cattle-dotted pastures of the Bessines countryside. Rituals and folklore surround its inhabitants and these tainted beliefs cause young women to make faulty decisions. Desperate for the eye of an eligible man, Madeleine marries the shifty blacksmith, Leger Couland, who is thirteen years her senior. Heartbreak is now chiseled into the steel of her existence. After Leger's death, Madeleine takes her young daughter, Marie-Alix, to the winding streets of Paris searching for a better life.In time, Madeleine falls, once again, into a sea of carelessness. The widow gives birth to another daughter in 1865. Marie-Clementine (later to be known as Suzanne) has been blessed with flashing blue eyes and fairness of face. Any resemblance to a Christmas angel limits itself as Marie takes to the Paris streets with abandon in her youth. Suzanne with that same youth and lithe agility discovers a talent as a horseback performer in the circus and is quite in demand.But Hewitt brings the spotlight of her story shifting with the focus on the life of Suzanne Valadon with Renoir, Manet, Monet, and Toulouse Lautrec drifting in and out along the outer perimeter. Valadon visits the cafes and coffee houses of Paris where she is wrapped in the presence of artists, writers, and musicians. Initially, Valadon is embraced for her modeling presence. But a breakthrough arrives as she dabbles in charcoal drawings and later watercolors and oils of her own creation.Renoir's Dancer reads like fiction, but it it filled with pockets of discoveries within the artists' dens of the time period. Although not as well known as Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, Valadon does what she does best.......breaking ground for women and leaving quite the footprints behind.I received a copy of Renoir's Dancer through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and to Catherine Hewitt for the opportunity.
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  • Cynthia
    January 1, 1970
    It’s only February but I bet Renoir’s Dancer will be one of my favorites for 2018. Hewitt has an engaging style that flows though it’s filled with lots of things such as dates, people and place names. Marie-Clementine Valadon was born in 1865 in Limousin France to an unwed mother who dreamed of living in Paris so that’s what Madeleine and her two daughters did and what a time they had. Marie was incorrible and forever drawing. Her mother gave up and let Marie run the exciting streets of Montmart It’s only February but I bet Renoir’s Dancer will be one of my favorites for 2018. Hewitt has an engaging style that flows though it’s filled with lots of things such as dates, people and place names. Marie-Clementine Valadon was born in 1865 in Limousin France to an unwed mother who dreamed of living in Paris so that’s what Madeleine and her two daughters did and what a time they had. Marie was incorrible and forever drawing. Her mother gave up and let Marie run the exciting streets of Montmartre. Marie eventually found work as an artist’s model developing a reputation that was good enough that not only Renoir but also Degas and other famous artists sought her out.She wasn’t just posing however she watching them mix their paints, observing their medium and technique and going home to practice her own drawing. When Degas discovered her talent he actively helped to promote her. Of course there were others that helped along the way. She often met them at the lively cafes of Montmartre where discussions about art could last all night. Along the way Marie changes her name to Suzanne, emulates her mom by having a child out of wedlock. I’d never heard of Valadon before reading this book. You can find samples of her talent online but not much is written about her either as a person or as an artist. She lived through so many noteworthy art movements beginning with the Impressionists, Dadaists, Fauvists, Expressionists, etc. Even if she hadn’t been an artist her life would be interesting but add her talent, Paris, and art and her story explodes.Thank you to the publisher for providing an ecopy.
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  • Vanessa Couchman
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating study of the life of Suzanne Valadon, an artist's model in the late 19th century who drew in secret and was discovered by Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas. She went on to become one of the most celebrated artists of her day, as much for her chaotic and Bohemian lifestyle as for her paintings. Today, Suzanne Valadon is much less prominent, partly because her works are challenging: she painted what she saw, often in stark honesty. Also, her paintings and sketches defy classification. Final A fascinating study of the life of Suzanne Valadon, an artist's model in the late 19th century who drew in secret and was discovered by Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas. She went on to become one of the most celebrated artists of her day, as much for her chaotic and Bohemian lifestyle as for her paintings. Today, Suzanne Valadon is much less prominent, partly because her works are challenging: she painted what she saw, often in stark honesty. Also, her paintings and sketches defy classification. Finally, she is overshadowed by her own son, the painter Maurice Utrillo, whose alcohol-fuelled lifestyle and mental problems were a constant worry to Suzanne throughout her own life. Maurice's shadow hangs over the book, especially in the later chapters.Catherine Hewitt paints a vivid picture of life and the artistic milieu in Montmartre during the Belle Epoque. I would have liked to see a little more analysis of Suzanne's works themselves, but the book should help to put this wonderfully idiosyncratic artist back on the map.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent Artist Biography Diminished by ‘Clickbait’ Title and Cover(Note: I received an advance copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)Anyone who picks up this book expecting a book-length exposé on Renoir’s relationship with one of his favorite models, along with gossipy revelations about Suzanne’s Valadon’s life, is in for a bit of a disappointment.Yes, part of one chapter does explore in great depth that relationship, which proved to be an early pivotal moment in setting Su Excellent Artist Biography Diminished by ‘Clickbait’ Title and Cover(Note: I received an advance copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)Anyone who picks up this book expecting a book-length exposé on Renoir’s relationship with one of his favorite models, along with gossipy revelations about Suzanne’s Valadon’s life, is in for a bit of a disappointment.Yes, part of one chapter does explore in great depth that relationship, which proved to be an early pivotal moment in setting Suzanne Valadon on her artistic career path. And yes, the author, Catherine Hewitt, does address the gossip and rumors that swirled around Valadon’s relationships with many of the artists she modeled for. But those activities are really not the point of this book, as the title and cover may lead you to believe.So what is the point of this book? It’s to provide a comprehensive, engaging, well-researched, scholarly study of Suzanne Valadon. It’s to elevate the modern readers’ understanding and appreciation of an often-overlooked avant-garde artist who defied categorization, who stuck to her guns in representing the truth as she saw it, and who happened to be female. Suzanne Valadon was in fact the first French female artist that came from the peasant class to earn a living creating fine art and become internationally renowned in the process (i.e., she was so much more than “Renoir’s dancer”). Yet, at the same time, she resisted being labeled a “female artist” and only sought the recognition that any male artist in her position would’ve so easily come by, as explained in this book.By tracing the artist’s life from her family’s provincial beginnings, through her work as a model during one of the most exciting periods of French painting, her active engagement in and contributions to Montmartre’s bohemian culture, her relationships with both the French artworld’s elite and its more eccentric characters, her family relationships, and her own artistic explorations, this book provides a complete picture of Suzanne Valadon as a person and as an artist. Hewitt explains the genesis and development of Valadon’s artistic output and offers insightful interpretations of individual works by adeptly placing them within their appropriate cultural, social, and biographical contexts. I commend the author for achieving, in my view, the perfect balance between background material (social history), biographical accounts of Valadon’s personal life, and discussions of the artworks, which never get tedious. Though this book is quite scholarly (extensive source citations and bibliography are provided), there is never a dull moment, whether the author is describing Montmartre’s fin-de-siècle nightlife, Paris during wartime, or Valadon’s challenging relationship with her alcoholic son, the famous French painter Maurice Utrillo. Much of that is due to just how interesting a character Valadon was and the times she lived in were—all brought to life in this book’s pages. In our post-truth world, I found it refreshing that the author stuck to presenting the facts rather than speculating and insisting on interpretations of certain events in Valadon’s life as told by competing accounts. I also appreciated that the life of an important female artist wasn’t used as a pretext for polemical discussions and deconstructions of the “patriarchal hegemony” (a common approach during my graduate student days in art history); but that's not to imply the limitations on and biases against a female artist at the time aren't duly addressed here. I have to say without personally checking her source material, Hewitt’s treatment of her subject felt very honest, just as Valadon always strove to lay bare the truth of her artistic subjects—both of which make the dishonest title of this book even more striking. I can certainly understand the publisher’s desire to reach a broader audience with such a sensationalistic title and attractive cover. Someone who picks this up hoping for juicy details about a famous Impressionist’s romantic affairs is in for a real treat and should enjoy this great read nonetheless. But as a society, aren’t we past diminishing or undermining a female artist’s accomplishments (in any industry) by emphasizing the role men played in getting her there? Or by defining her in terms of the more salacious (“secret life”) aspects of her existence? Certainly, the details need to be covered—in this case, that famous male artists like Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec played essential roles in Valadon’s artistic rise. But female dealers, patrons, collectors, and family members played important roles as well, also covered in this book. In the weeks before this book’s publication, I can only hope the publisher “gets woke” and changes the cover to feature an artwork actually created by Valadon and moves the artist’s name to the left side of the title’s colon, thereby creating a cover worthy of the book’s contents and of the artist herself.
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  • Tiffany
    January 1, 1970
    Catherine Hewitt's Renoir's Dancer expertly examines the life and influence of Marie-Clémentine Valadon, later known as Suzanne Valadon. I admit that the narrative is slow sometimes, but this did not really deter my interest in the book. Before reading Hewitt's work, I no idea of the full life that Valadon lived mixing and mingling with some of the greatest artists of her time, first as a model, and later as an accepted artist in her own right. Hewitt narrative brings to life Valadon in ways I c Catherine Hewitt's Renoir's Dancer expertly examines the life and influence of Marie-Clémentine Valadon, later known as Suzanne Valadon. I admit that the narrative is slow sometimes, but this did not really deter my interest in the book. Before reading Hewitt's work, I no idea of the full life that Valadon lived mixing and mingling with some of the greatest artists of her time, first as a model, and later as an accepted artist in her own right. Hewitt narrative brings to life Valadon in ways I could not have expected when I first requested this work, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the time period, art, Paris, and/or the life of a woman that lived outside of the confines of society's expectations of a woman. Simply a brilliant work through which I learned an immense amount of information about a woman I hope to study in more depth in the future. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the eARC of this work in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Azabu
    January 1, 1970
    Housemaid’s child ‘father unknown’ to the belle of Montmartre where she served as Renoir’s muse, talented artist in her own right yet known to history as mother of painter Maurice Utrillo. Valadon’s impact on the late 1890s art scene brings to life fierce friendships, with a sharp focus on Toulouse Lautrec and Edgar Degas. Another example of how women are omitted from the annals of history.
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  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    **I received an ebook copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.**I really enjoyed this book because it gave so much insight into the art world in France during the 20th century. While the story focuses on Suzanne Valadon and her modeling and painting career, Cathrine Hewitt gives us glimpses into famous painters in the era like Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, and Picasso. Hewitt does such a great job of bringing the setting of Montmartre to life along with its artists in a way that makes this **I received an ebook copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.**I really enjoyed this book because it gave so much insight into the art world in France during the 20th century. While the story focuses on Suzanne Valadon and her modeling and painting career, Cathrine Hewitt gives us glimpses into famous painters in the era like Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, and Picasso. Hewitt does such a great job of bringing the setting of Montmartre to life along with its artists in a way that makes this book feel less like a biography and more like a historical fiction novel. But the story follows the history of that time to a tee. As I was reading this book, I wanted to know more about the artists Suzanne encounters and befriends throughout her life, and the biography really made me interested in learning more about France during this time period. It also made me appreciate what I already knew about impressionist artwork. My only issue is that I felt like the last quarter of the book lacked the passion and the spark that brought the characters to life in the first 3/4 of the book. The last years of Suzanne's life felt rushed and not as detailed. It felt like Hewitt was just telling us the timeline of Suzanne's life and paintings without the real creativity and storytelling that immersed me in early parts of the book. I will definitely be purchasing a hard copy of this book and reading her first book The Mistress of Paris!
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  • Gina
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent biography of Suzanne Valadon, a 19th century painter, born in the deep French countryside as an illegitimate child to a single working mother. Her extraordinary life in which she transcended her early work as a painter’s model in Montmartre, to Renoir, Degas and Lautrec, to become a great and admired painter in her own right, is fully documented. She broke every glass ceiling possible with her talent and personality at a time when genteel women painted for their bourgeois mi This is an excellent biography of Suzanne Valadon, a 19th century painter, born in the deep French countryside as an illegitimate child to a single working mother. Her extraordinary life in which she transcended her early work as a painter’s model in Montmartre, to Renoir, Degas and Lautrec, to become a great and admired painter in her own right, is fully documented. She broke every glass ceiling possible with her talent and personality at a time when genteel women painted for their bourgeois milieu rather than the real world of art, dominated by men. She in turn gave birth to an illegitimate son who became the famous painter Maurice Utrillo.
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  • Polly Krize
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.Anyone who has seen Renoir's paintings of dancers may not be able to resist this biography of one of these graceful women, Suzanne Valadon. A friend to many of the Impressionist painters, this strong woman was a painter in her own right and an interesting character in Impressionist art history.
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  • Gwen
    January 1, 1970
    What a wonderful book about someone that knows anything about. My parents, when I was young, got me interested in the Impressionist period of painting. This story brings this period of time to life and gives us an inside look at one woman who changed the way you look at painting.
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  • nikkia neil
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks St. Martin's Press and netgalley for this ARC.This bio takes you back in time in that titillating, thilling, and magical way only a special author has the power to bestow.
  • joyce w. laudon
    January 1, 1970
    In the fall of 2017, I audited a class on 19th century European painting. This was largely a class about French artists. I also recently saw a wonderful exhibit on Renoir at the Phillips Collection in DC. So, you can imagine how eagerly I looked forward to reading this biography. Renoir's Dancer absolutely did not disappoint. The author's writing style is fluid and engaging and the pages kept turning. The book starts with the lives of Suzanne's parents which were fascinating in themselves. Suzan In the fall of 2017, I audited a class on 19th century European painting. This was largely a class about French artists. I also recently saw a wonderful exhibit on Renoir at the Phillips Collection in DC. So, you can imagine how eagerly I looked forward to reading this biography. Renoir's Dancer absolutely did not disappoint. The author's writing style is fluid and engaging and the pages kept turning. The book starts with the lives of Suzanne's parents which were fascinating in themselves. Suzanne's early experiences and temperament set the stage for the young adult and adult she would become. While reading Renoir's Dancer, I revisited or learned even more about French history and artists. Such a pleasure to spend time in their company. If you read only one biography this year, make it this one!
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Suzanne was once called 'the terror of Montmartre'. The pretty golden-haired child of a single mother climbed out of Windows, played truant from school and associated with vagabonds. After joining the circus, however, she suffered a terrible accident and focused on her drawing. Once she became an artist's model for illustrious artists, such as Renoir, she was on the road to success.She became respectable married woman, the mistress of a large house with her own studio and servants. But she had t Suzanne was once called 'the terror of Montmartre'. The pretty golden-haired child of a single mother climbed out of Windows, played truant from school and associated with vagabonds. After joining the circus, however, she suffered a terrible accident and focused on her drawing. Once she became an artist's model for illustrious artists, such as Renoir, she was on the road to success.She became respectable married woman, the mistress of a large house with her own studio and servants. But she had trouble with her son's inclination to drink. Would she give it all up for a handsome and much younger man...?This is a fascinating tale about the wild-child of Montmartre and her talented son with vividdescriptions of the bohemian lives of the famous artists of the late 19th century. I felt that I had a birds-eye view to the charm and glamour of the Paris of the time. Suzanne Valadon has been neglected so this biography is a welcome addition to books about these artists.I received this free ebook from Net Galleyin return for an honest review.
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  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    Renoir's Dancer by Catherine Hewitt is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late February.In the case of Marie-Clementine/Maria/Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice, I don't think that this is so much a biography (and a research-based, lovingly rendered one, at that) about them, their dysfunctional relationship, and their fame inside and out of the art world in Montmartre, but about their ability to function and create, despite their dysfunction.
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