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Maurice (Valadon) Utrillo

 (1883 - 1955)
Maurice (Valadon) Utrillo was active/lived in France.  Maurice Utrillo is known for landscape and cityscene genre painting, stage design.

Maurice (Valadon) Utrillo

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Biography from the Archives of askART

Born in Paris with the name of Maurice Valadon, Maurice Utrillo specilized in painting city scenes, especially of his beloved Paris.  It is said that he is one of the most copied and forged artist in history.

He was the son of teenage model, Marie-Clementine Valade, who painted under the name of Suzanne Valadon, and perhaps an amateur painter name Boissy.  Unsure of the father, Valadon reportedly took him around among some of her male acquaintances including Renoir, all whom denied parentage, and so she named him after Miguel Utrillo, who was sympathetic but likely not the father. Among the artists for whom Valadon posed were Berthe Morisot, Toulouse Lautrec, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 

By the age of 21, Utrillo was having the mental problems that would reoccur throughout his life.  To divert him, his mother encouraged him to paint, so he made pictures of what he saw around him in his neighborhood of Montmartre.  His landscapes were unique, some said bizarre, and people bought them.  They became popular and influential in that they encouraged other artists to depict their own environs realistically instead of following the prevailing trends towards abstraction.  Many of his Parisian scenes, painted 'en-plein air', have appeared on postcards.

In the 1920s, when he was in his 40s, he had an international reputation, and in 1929, he received the Legion of Honor from the French government.   In 1935, when he was 52, he married a woman named Lucie Valore, and the couple settled in Le Vesinet, near Paris.  He lived into his seventies, although he had many bouts with alcoholism.  He died November 5, 1955 and is buried in Montmartre in the Cimetere Saint-Vincent.


Biography from Anderson Galleries, Inc.
Maurice Utrillo was born in Paris, on the 26th of December 1883 to the French painter Suzanne Valadon. His mother posed as a model for such painters as Renoir and Puvis de Chavannes before discovering her own talent for drawing and painting. His father, the Spanish painter Miguel Utrillo (1862-1934), only admitted paternity eight years after Maurice's birth.

Utrillo had no predisposition for art, but when he was 19 his mother urged him to adopt drawing and painting as to distract him from his need for alcohol. In search of a suitable subject, he went to the countryside around Montmagny, a village to the north of Paris. There, between the autumn of 1903 and the winter of 1904, he completed almost 150 paintings—somber, heavily impasto landscapes as the Roofs of Montmagny (Paris, Pompidou).

By 1906 the doctor felt that Utrillo could return to Montmartre. His pictures of the streets and suburbs were painted with a less heavy impasto and with lighter tones. He was attracted by ordinary houses, as seen in works such as Rue du Mont-Cenis and Berlioz's House (both 1914, Paris Museum Orangerie), and suburban churches, as seen in Church of Villiers-le-Bel (1909, Private collection). These themes, associated with painters such as Daumier, Pissaro and Caillebotte, became Utrillo's chief source of inspiration, but he soon turned to a more ambitious subject—cathedrals. He was concerned with the development of an ordered composition and a flattened treatment of space that suggested the artificial appearance of theatre, as seen in Notre-Dame (1909, Paris Museum Orangerie). During World War I he found that such subjects allowed him to project strong emotions, as seen in Rheims Cathedral in Flames (1914, Basle, Private Collection).

From 1909 until 1914 Utrillo mixed glue, plaster or cement with his paint to obtain the whites for which he became famous. His paintings of buildings show a striking contrast between the boldness of his color and his painstaking draughtsmanship (traces of his having used a ruler and compass are often noticeable). Carried to their logical conclusion, these experiments led him to produce austere monochrome paintings in beige and grey.

His deteriorating health and social awkwardness led him gradually to withdraw from the streets of Montmartre into the relative safety of nursing homes.  Here he developed the habit of painting from postcards. His stepfather, the painter Andre Utter (1886-1948), and his mother selected cards that reproduced his favorite views of la Butte Montmarte. He worked from these in their communal studio at 12 Rue Cortot, in the restaurant La Belle Gabrielle or in a bedroom above the Pere Gay bistro. He exacted his revenge on the locals, who had made his life difficult with their criticisms and jokes, by depicting them in his paintings in rear view as heavily outlined clumsy shapes and stereotyped silhouettes.

There is no hint in Utrillo's work of the vicissitudes of his life: spells in homes, a move with his mother and stepfather to the Chateau de Saint-Bernard in the Saone in 1923, his marriage to Lucie Pauwels (ne Valore) in 1936, their consequent establishment in an orderly bourgeois existence at Vesinet, and various visits to the country.

His late paintings, such as Old House at Aubusson (gouache on paper, 1935, Lausanne Pal Rumine) and Village Street under Snow (1945, Albi Museum, Toulouse Lautrec) are characterized by rich colors and strong black contours and are based almost entirely on landscape themes.  From 1937 on his friend and dealer Paul Petrides looked after him at the request of his family.  In spite of his wretched life he maintained a prolific output with a deep vein of poetic melancholy.

He died in May 1955. His critical reputation declined posthumously, although he remained popular with collectors and the public.

A.Tabarant: "Maurice Utrillo" (Paris, 1927)
A. Werner: "Utrillo" (New York, 1955)
P.Petrides: L'oeuvre compete de Masurice Utrillo, 5 vols. (Paris, 1959-1974)
J. Warnod: "Maurice Utrillo" (Paris, 1983) Centenaries d'Utrillo (Exh, cat, ed, J, Warnod; Tokyo, Mitsukoshi, 1985)

Biography from Daphne Alazraki Fine Art
Maurice Utrillo, initially Maurice Valadon, was born in Paris, December 26, 1883, the illegitimate son of the artist Suzanne Valadon.  She, who had become a model after a fall from a trapeze, ended her chosen career as a circus acrobat, found that posing for Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and others provided her with an opportunity to study their techniques; in some cases, she had also become their mistress.  She taught herself to paint, and when Toulouse-Lautrec introduced her to Edgar Degas, he became her mentor. Eventually she became a peer of the artists she had posed for.

Meanwhile, Valedon's mother was left in charge of raising the young Utrillo, who soon showed a troubling inclination toward truancy and alcoholism.  When a mental illness took hold of the twenty-one year old Utrillo in 1904, he was encouraged to paint by his mother.  Under her tutelage, he began painting the streets of his childhood neighborhood, Montmartre.  Working in the tradition of the conventional veduta, he depicted streets, buildings, fountains, and avenues, which he captured at different seasons of the year in a style influenced by the lyrical realism of Camille Pissarro and Albert Sisley.  However, by deploying a subtle palette - mainly yellows, turquoise, maroon and zinc white - he suffused the scenes with atmospheric* qualities that evoke feelings either of familiarity or of alienation in the viewer.

Known as his 'White Period' (période blanche), the years between 1909 and 1914 represent the acme of Utrillo's creativity.  During this time, he reduced his palette to white, shading into grays.  He also mixed his paints with sand, plaster, and lime to render the physical substance of his subject matter, walls in particular.  In 1910, art critics F. Jourdan and E. Faure discovered the artist.  Their appreciation of his talent enabled Utrillo to take part for the first time in the 1912 Salon d'Automne*. Until 1914, Utrillo traveled in Brittany and Corsica; his works assumed an increasingly luminous* quality, which greatly enriched his earlier ascetic conception of reality. In 1924, he exhibited with his mother at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris and was offered a contract for a year. However, that same year he also attempted to commit suicide, which was probably the result of years of alcohol abuse.

A powerful natural talent, Utrillo made an enormous contribution in consolidating painterly structure and texture.  He was also important as a draughtsman*. In 1926, he designed stage scenery and costumes for Djaghilev's Ballets Russes.  He received public recognition in 1928, when he was made a member of the Legion of Honour.

Starting where Impressionism* left off, Utrillo became the best-known portrayer of Paris, especially Montmartre, painting both from nature and from postcards.  His poetic interpretations of the streets and squares of Montmartre contributed substantially to popularizing a romantic image of that quarter.  However, when he painted people, they were always represented as solitary beings, lost in social isolation.  The first comprehensive retrospective of Utrillo's work was held at the 1943 Salon d'Automne.*

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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About  Maurice (Valadon) Utrillo

Born:  1883 - Montmartre, Paris, France
Died:   1955 - Le Vesinet, France
Known for:  landscape and cityscene genre painting, stage design