Monday, 22 April 2013


Suzanne Valadon, The woman on the left
I wrote this post a lot slower because I kept looking at her


Noun. Plural pronounced the same. Early 20th century.
[Colloquial French]

An infatuation, a fancy.

When I was about eight years old, I went and viewed The Umbrellas by Renoir at the National Gallery in London. Instantly, I fell in love with the woman on the left. While it's true that it would probably be more accurately described as a béguin, an infatuation can be extremely powerful and my first meeting with this woman is a very poignant memory. Even now, my béguin is such that she will instantly arrest my attention if I ever see the picture (as will the nagging jealousy I feel toward the man behind her who is perhaps thinking of making a move). 

The woman on the left, by the way, is the French painter Suzanne Valadon. She was both Renoir's lover (grr!) and model. Had I wished to impress her at the time, my woeful command of French would have doubtless scuppered my wooing (and me being eight, of course). However, béguin is pronounced something like beg-uh, though you need to make it sound really French. Like really, really French. My goodness she's lovely ...


  1. Beautiful, indeed!
    Do we use the French pronunciation in English, too?

    1. Yes, I think so Evi, especially as it's not a very familiar word so no equivalent English pronunciation has become established.

  2. She is a rather captivating woman. My attention was snagged by the little girl as well. It's as if she and the woman are the only two noticing something that is going on perhaps... don't listen to me though haha - I am no art critic. I just love stories...

    1. You're right, Kara. It's painted in a photographic style, so it's quite possible they are looking at *you*, the person taking the shot. Also, the main subject of the painting (that lovely, lovely woman on the left) is not at the centre, and various people in the painting are partially blocked, etc, just like a unposed photo.

  3. Great word. I think I had a béguin for that girl in Bugsy Malone. -c