Satie the Ardent Suitor

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Eric Satie is known for the eccentricity of his music. That eccentricity was only a reflection of the odd way in which the composer conducted his life–including his love life.

Satie is known to have had an affair with only one woman–and it’s possible that he could not have survived–or had time for–more than one such affair. Satie was in his twenties when he was introduced to Suzanne Valadon. She was one year older than Satie, was a painter educated in the street of Montmartre. She had been the mistress of Renoir, and of Degas, who had helped to arrange the first exhibition of her drawings.

Suzanne’s fondness for variety led her next to a wealthy young banker who proposed marriage. She refused but agreed to be his mistress. No sooner had he reluctantly agreed than Suzanne took on an additional lover–Eric Satie.

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The first time he met Suzanne, Satie proposed to her, but the subject seems not to have come up again, and Suzanne, Satie, and the banker constituted a rather shaky triangle for two years. No doubt Suzanne liked the banker for his stability and liked Satie for his imagination. One evening Satie took Suzanne and the banker to the theater and hired a pair of black boys to proceed them beating on drums.

But Satie’s humor wore thin. When he pleaded with Suzanne to stop seeing the banker she laughed at him. Satie put a sign in the window denouncing her morals and generally proclaiming her uselessness to the universe.

Shortly afterward they had a quarrel so violent that the neighbors talked about it for years. Suzanne moved out–but not far. She moved in with the banker–two doors down from Satie. She made a point of driving past Satie’s apartment in an elegant carriage, accompanied by two wolfhounds and a parrot in a cage.

He wrote letters begging her to return–but it was hopeless. Deprived of Suzanne, he turned to a new love, mysticism, which would be a lifetime companion for the eccentric composer Eric Satie.

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