Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Portrait of the Family

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(9):952. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.9.952.
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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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Marie-Clémentine (Suzanne) Valadon (1865-1938), French. Cover: Portrait of the Family, 1913. Oil on canvas, 97 × 73 cm. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France. (Photograph by Philippe Migeat.) © 2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

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Maurice Utrillo as a Child, 1886. Red crayon on paper, 34.5 × 29 cm. Musée National d’Art Moderne. © 2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

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