“Le Bal a Bougival” Renoir, 1883
Oh, yes, this was fascinating! The Private Lives of the Impressionists, by Sue Roe, is not a piece of fiction and it took me a little longer to finish it, but I loved it! Well, I am a Francophile, I adore the Impressionists and I am a painter. You get the picture. Following the artists around from Monet’s first visit to Paris in 1860 though the years of struggle to be taken seriously and the final 8th Exhibition was enlightening for me. Keeping food on the table and paints for the easel was not easy! I have always wondered how they managed to survive.
Also fascinating are the romantic stories of these artists, including the two women, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Oh, these artists were charming rascals and had numerous love affairs with their models. My only disappointment is that Suzanne Valadon wasn’t mentioned as one of Renoir’s lengthy romances. She is the girl in his painting “Bal a Bougival.” Suzanne Valadon was only 19 years old when she began her romance with Renoir in the streets of Montmartre, but she was a significant artist for the people of Montmartre. She is called by them “The First Woman Artist of France.” I discovered her work and fame at the Musee de Montmartre, her preserved home, in Paris in 2002, and later found a book about her at the beloved Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, The Valadon Drama by John Storm (1959). She came into her fame after the Impressionist Era; and so, I can understand the omission. Somewhere I have a picture of me standing in front of that painting in the Musee d’Orsay…it’s a beautiful painting.
Read the book, even if you think you already know everything about these artists. As an art teacher and fan, I learned much, much more than expected!