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Renoir's Girls

December 29, 1985

William Wilson's theory that Monsieur Renoir's women, "unlike those of Manet--have no interesting jagged edges; they are just big, passive grown-up cherubs fit only to make love resulting immediately in little sweet-fleshed putti" has at least one glaring exception ("Reevaluating Monsieur Renoir in Beantown," Dec. 8).

The female model in two or more of the "Dance" paintings that illustrate Wilson's article is the infamous Suzanne Valadon. This woman had given birth on Dec. 26, 1883, not to a putti, but to Maurice Utrillo, artist (and alcoholic by age 12).

Valadon, whose flaming youth in the streets of Monmarte out dramatizes the script of "Casque d'Or," was ardent friend, lover, and/or model to an uncountable cast of Parisian artists including Puvis de Chavannes, Miguel Utrillo, Andre Utter, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Forain, and Renior.

Petite Suzanne Valadon was certainly no "big, passive grown-up cherub," but a powerful and gifted artist in her own right. Edgar Degas recognized her skill when he examined Valadon's drawings and acknowledged, "Yes, it is true, you are indeed one of us."

Valadon claims she modeled for all three works, but Lawrence Hanson says the woman shown in "Dance in the City" is Renoir's fiance, Aline Charigot, who will eventually become mother to not a putti, but Jean Renoir. The man in all of the dance paintings is Paul Lhote, painter and man of action (he liked to fight duels).

DIANE CALDER

Cal State Northridge

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