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Maurice Utrillo is an example of an autodidactic artist, trained in the street and not in the museum. His turbulent life has contributed to his legend of a tormented artist whose sadness is expressed in his innumerable paintings of Paris and its many neighbourhoods.
Maurice Utrillo is one of the only artists of the Montmartre ‘Butte’ actually born in Montmartre. He was the son of Suzanne Valadon, a model for Puvis de Chavannes, Berthe Morisot, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec. It was in his observation of them that he learned to paint. His son was also one of his favourite models, when he accepted to hold the pose.
Maurice, became immersed in the bohemian lifestyle of the city, giving into its temptations and who was essentially saved by his art.
His childhood was spent under the guidance of his grandmother, yet feelings of abandonment and solitude saw him sink into alcoholism, causing much despair within his life (violence, madness). From 18 years old onwards, he made several trips to an asylum for treatment. These therapeutic trips might have saved the artist and at once help to reveal his genius. As of 1926, Maurice Utrillo paints regularly and is able to live from his art.
In 1936 he marries Lucie Valore with whom he settles in the Vésinet. His wife manages the couple’s finances and keeps an eye on the artist to make sure he does not again turn to alcohol.
Maurice Utrillo mostly painted landscapes in which human construction is present. Throughout his career, he painted numerous urban scapes, mostly of the Montmartrearea. Difficult to categorize, his style remains truly unique and personal.
Three distinct artistic periods can be established for his work:
The ‘Montmagny period’ from 1904 to 1910; the ‘white period’ from 1910 to 1914: in which the colour white dominates; the ‘coloured period’ from 1922 to 1955: in which gay and vibrant colours dominate.