The famous painter from Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Suzanne Valadon is part of the “Pioneers” exhibition at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris. She is one of the women artists of the 20s, highlighted until July 10.
“Pioneers“, at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, brings together the works of many French and international women artists of the 1920s, including the Haute-Viennese Suzanne Valadon.
It was she who inspired the holding of this exhibition, her Suzanne Valadon or rather her painting dated 1923, the blue room. Seeing it hung at the Center Pompidou in a 2009 exhibition, Camille Morineau and Lucia Pesatane, curators of the exhibition Pioneers, are seized by the work of this woman who herself paints a woman and presents for the first time, a Venus, dressed, wearing pajamas, a cigarette in her hand, her hair cut boyishly. A change from the traditions of the time when it was more often men who painted women and when they did, their muses were nude.
Historians then say to themselves that a retrospective should be made dedicated to these women artists of the 1920s. The project was born and it took three years to find these women who exhibited in those years, to collect their works, sometimes to pick them up at private collectors.
In the 1920s, women became emancipated. The First World War gave them a certain confidence, ” they realized that they could work very well, earn money, started exhibiting, and Paris offered them the freedom to do so” explains Lucia Pesatane, curator of the exhibition. She continues: “TheSapphism was tolerated in the capital, which is also the reason why women came to Paris, there were clubs open for female couples, and Nathalie Barney, she invited many artists every Thursday and homosexual couples in its salons”.
But this liberation of morals did not last long and ended with the economic crisis of 1929 and the rise of totalitarianism. The 1930s were a very difficult decade for women in Germany, Italy, France too, with a very conservative policy.
This voice that they had succeeded in obtaining in the 20s, they did not manage to keep it. It will only be in 44 that women will obtain the right to vote, says Lucia.
According to Lucia Pesatane and Camille Morineau, curators of the exhibition Pioneers, women have been forgotten by the history of art written by men. “For youn a large part of these artists, we had no biography or catalog” they say, which may explain the lack of retrospectives on their work.
The idea of this exhibition is to make visible the art of the women of the Roaring Twenties, to reveal their stories as well as to highlight their essential role in the development of the great artistic movements of modernity. “We wanted to show certain artists who do not yet have their place in French museums. It is in a way, rewriting the history of art in an egalitarian way” describes Lucia.
So Pioneers strives to present artists from europe but also from abroad. It highlights many artists from Eastern Europe, China and Brazil who came to Paris. During this period, women touched on different arts, they passed easily from one discipline to another, which explains why the exhibition brings together paintings, sculptures, costumes, decorations, photographs, masks, puppets…
Like Tamara de Lempicka, Sonia Delaunay, Tarsila do Amaral or even Chana Orloff, born at the end of the 19th century or at the very beginning of the 20th century, women finally entered the great art schools that had until then been reserved for men. Suzanne Valadon is one of these pioneers.
Why ? Because it changes the way of representing women. In the 1920s, women could finally take part in nude classes, which would allow their representations to evolve. In his table “the woman in the white stockings” dated 1924, Lucia Pesatane explains: “we see this woman who is getting dressed to go out, there is a bouquet of flowers behind the chair, she does not put it in a vase as if this bouquet was not very important for her. The poses are different from the classic poses. She is sitting on a chair, not looking directly at the viewer”. It’s the same device in his iconic 1923 painting, “The Blue Room”. It highlights a woman, short hair, badly made up, cigarette in hand in pajamas, who is lounging on her couch without looking at the viewer. At his feet, there is no bouquet of flowers but books.
Far from the Odalisques of Matisse or Manet who showed women with perfect shapes, looking at the spectator, “Suzanne Valadon represents a new woman in a domestic context“.
A third painting by the painter is exhibited at the Luxembourg Museum. It is “black venus” produced in 1919. Lucia explains to us that by choosing a black Venus this time, this work shows to what extent Suzanne Valadon is interested in other cultures, other countries, far from the clichés of the colonial gaze that the we find among male artists. It is also the moment when, like Mella Mutter, Anna Canco, Lucie Couturier, she begins to travel.
This very beautiful exhibition is to be discovered for another two weeks. at the Musée du Luxembourg, in Paris, until July 10, 2022.