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Art and Images in Psychiatry
September 2005

Portrait of the Family

Author Affiliations


Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(9):952. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.9.952

My work is finished and the only satisfaction it gives me is that I have never surrendered. I have never betrayed anything that I believed in. You will see the truth one day, perhaps, if anyone ever takes the trouble to do me justice. Valadon to Francis Caro, 19371(p88)

Marie-Clémentine (Suzanne) Valadon (1865-1938) was the illegitimate daughter of a sewing maid and washerwoman who brought her to Paris, France, from the French countryside in 1870. She grew up on the streets of Montmartre (the ancient site of the temple of Mars, the place of martyrdom of French saints, and the center of night life in La Belle Epoch). It was a dangerous and exciting time for a child during the years after the disastrous Prussian defeat of France in 1871 and the failed Paris Commune. Valadon was a tomboy who began sketching from windows and rooftops at age 9 years. A curious child with excellent sensibility, she is said at age 7 or 8 years to have watched Pierre-Auguste Renoir at his easel and solemnly advised him to keep painting and not to be discouraged; she was sure he had a future.2 Because she was a great storyteller, much of her life has become folklore, some of it of her own construction. She was a controversial figure whose art defied convention. Today she is best known as the mother of Maurice Utrillo,3 yet her own work deserves greater attention.4

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