Hannah Stamler at Artforum:
A SELF-PORTRAIT from 1911 shows Suzanne Valadon at work, presumably creating the image before us. Holding a paint-streaked palette, she turns slightly to the right with lips pursed and eyes narrowed, likely scrutinizing her reflection in a mirror beyond the frame. When Valadon made the portrait, at age forty-six, she would have been quite accustomed to holding a pose. Raised by a single mother in Montmartre, heady epicenter of the Parisian avant-garde, she began working as an artist’s model at the age of fifteen, sitting for the likes of Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, her friend and lover, who nicknamed her “Suzanna” (her real name was Marie-Clémentine) in winking reference to the biblical figure whose beauty tormented older men. Less familiar to the middle-aged Valadon was holding a brush. The self-taught artist didn’t seriously develop her practice until she was in her thirties, when marriage to a wealthy businessman afforded her the necessary time and support; she only began working with oil paints in 1909, the same year she left her conjugal home to take up with André Utter, a friend of her son, Maurice Utrillo, and more than twenty years her junior. Forged in a moment of personal and professional renewal, Self-Portrait declares Valadon’s hard-won status as subject and painter, mistress of her own canvas double. Valadon spent more than a decade watching male artists assess her and pick her apart; now behind the easel, she contemplates herself with shrewd determination.