• Fig. 1 : Suzanne Valadon, The Throw of the Fishnet, 1914, oil on canvas, 201 x 301 cm, Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI, on loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Nancy since 1998, Inv. D.98.116.

In 1907, André Utter meets Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955), they become friends and paint at Montmartre. Through Utrillo in 1909, Utter is introduced to his mother, Marie-Clémentine Valadon (1865-1938), known in the artistic milieu as Suzanne Valadon. From 1909, Valadon and Utter become a couple and then she divorces Paul Mousis, her husband since 1895, to finally marry Utter in 1914 before he leaves for the war. When he comes back, Utter settles with Utrillo and Valadon in the house-studio of the rue Cortot in Paris1. The three artists become the ‘Trinité maudite’2 – ‘The Cursed Trinity’, and feature in numerous stories and anecdotes on the bohemian Parisian artistic way of life in Montmartre.

Valadon starts her career as a painter in 1884, after being a model for artists who encourage her to practice painting. Her features are well-known since she poses for famous artists including Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), she is the female dancer of Danse à la ville3 in 1883, or Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864- 1901). She paints self-portraits4 and females nudes from life, or portraits she signs ‘Suzanne Valadon’ from 1894.5 She earns a name for herself during the 1920s, a time when critics write she paints in a ‘masculine’6 way. Utter is interested in still life and landscapes, his style is described as ‘solid and subtle’7 in 1928 when he exhibits at the Galerie Zak in Paris. His drawing outline is vigorous and expressive – as it may be seen in his sketchbooks hold by the Centre Pompidou and in his self-portrait8 he makes in 1911. The liveliness of the line in this portrait of his partner echoes Valadon’s energy and strength of character, something that is observed in her works too.9 Utter uses orange chalk tohighlight the Valadon’s red hair, incandescent in this portrait, even supernatural. A leaf of four nude figures10 by Utter in 1911 shows perhaps the same unidentified female model drawn four times, whose hair enhanced by the orange color of the sanguine is as long as Valadon’s in her painting of 1909 Adam et Eve,11 a double portrait of herself and Utter, both naked in the Garden of Eden. In our portrait by Utter, the red color of Valadon’s hair, although it is tight, gives her a dashing and bold expression, even threatening. We see the strong character of the model in this portrait and she looks fearless, her dark eyes staring at us. She is more than forty years old when Utter meets her in 1909 and she has a reputation of being ‘a terrible woman [with] scornful glance, hostile [but who is] actually full of charity and kindness’.12


Valadon and Utter make portraits from each other and they tie together their careers though common exhibitions. Utter draws this portrait of Valadon while she makes his in 1911.13 On it Utter looks young, at twenty five years old, and a softness appears from this portrait which does not seem posed, as if it is done when he is unaware of the presence of Valadon. The couple has a romantic and artistic relationship, which is seen in their works, drawings and paintings. In 1914, Valadon paints Le Lancement du filet (fig. 1) in which Utter appears three times, naked14 while he paints Valadon bathing in Suzanne Valadon à sa toilette in 1913 owned by the Petit Palais of Genève. Both artists take part in 1909 to the group exhibition of drawings ‘Black and White’ at the Galerie Weil for the opening of the Librairie Artistique in Paris. The couple exhibits also with Utrillo, Valadon’ son, in 1912 in Munich, then in 1917 at Bernheim-Jeune. Valadon introduces her family, whose she is the center, in a group portrait Portraits de famille15 where we can see the ‘Cursed Trinity’ along her own mother sitting and in which Utter leads, as the family head, a role he would take on for Utrillo after Valadon death in 1938.


Eva Belgherbi – tr. Eva Belgherbi


1. On these Parisian years, see the catalogue Valadon, Utrillo & Utter: à l’atelier de la rue Cortot, 1912-1926, exh. cat., Paris, Somogy éditions d’art, 2015.

2. Sandra Martin and Cheryl Raman-Orhun, “Biographie croisée”, exh. cat., Valadon, Utrillo, Utter: la Trinité maudite entre Paris et Saint-Bernard, 1909-1939: peintures, dessins, photographies, dir. Sylvie Carlier, Villefranche-sur-Saône, Musée municipal Paul Dini, 2011, p. 42. See the book that contributes to spread anecdotes on the tumultuous relaitonship between the three artists, including details on fights, the alcoolism of Utrillo and his crisis or stays at the hospital to cure his addiction: Robert Beachboard, La Trinité maudite: Valadon, Utrillo, Utter, Paris, Amiot-Dumont, 1952.

3. Auguste Renoir, Danse à la ville, 1883, oil on canvas, 179,7 x 89,1 cm, Paris, Musée d’Orsay, RF 1978 13.

4. Suzanne Valadon, Autoportrait, 1883, graphite, charcoal and pastel on paper, 43,5 x 30,5 cm, Paris, Centre Pompidou - Musée national d’art moderne.

5. Catherine Gonnard and Élisabeth Lebovici, Femmes artistes, artistes femmes, Paris, de 1880 à nos jours, Paris, Hazan, 2007, p. 57.

6. “Ses compositions se comptent par centaines, et elles sont héroïques. Il y a une force illimitée et d’une qualité nerveuse extravagante en cette femme d’apparence menue et frêle. Elle ne se contente pas des peindre virilement, elle cerne encore ses nus de traits accusés, pour préciser un entêté impeccable. Elle ne se plie à aucune concession ; elle préfère même parfois subir la vulgarité évidente à la jolie expression qu’elle en veut pas subir.” Gustave Coquiot, Cubistes, Futuristes, Passéistes, Paris, 1923, quoted in exh. cat., Suzanne Valadon, Martigny, Fondation Gianadda, 1996, p. 139.

7. Paul-Sentenac, “Les expositions”, La Renaissance de l’art français et des industries de luxe, January 1928, p. 444.

8. André Utter, Autoportrait, 1911, graphite on paper, 30,2 x 22,2 cm, Paris, Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Inv. AM 1974-180.

9. “Un seul tableau et nous voilà tout de suite devant le problême pictural, le fait capital: Suzanne Valadon n’est pas une femme peintre, c’est un peintre, ce que n’aurait jamais été Rosa Bonheur ou Vigée-Le Brun [...] Elle apparait comme un bloc solide, la dernière île entre la terre de Pont-Aven et la phosphorescente mer des Fauves [...]” Jean Bouret en 1947, cité dans Suzanne Valadon, exh. cat., op. cit., p. 76.

10. André Utter, Quatre études de nu, 1911, graphite and red chalk on blue paper, 56,5 x 47 cm, Paris, Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Inv. AM 1786 D.

11. Suzanne Valadon, Adam et Eve, 1909, oil on canvas, 162 x 131 cm, Paris, Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI, Inv. AM 2325 P.

12. Gustave Coquiot, Cubistes, Futuristes, Passéistes, Paris, 1923, quoted in Suzanne Valadon, exh. cat., op. cit., p. 118.

13. Suzanne Valadon, Utter de profil, 1911, graphite on paper, 28,5 x 23,5 cm, Paris, Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Inv. AM 1974-199.

14. Béatrice Salmon, “Suzanne Valadon, Le Lancement de filet”, Éclats. Collection du musée des beaux-arts de Nancy, Blandine Chavanne (dir.), Paris, Somogy éd. d’art ; Nancy, Ville de Nancy, 2005, p. 178.

15. Suzanne Valadon, Portraits de famille, 1912, oil on canvas, 98 x 73,5 cm, Paris, Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, hold by the Musée d’Orsay since 1977, RF 1976 22.


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