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Maurice Utrillo

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Maurice Utrillo
Portrait of Maurice Utrillo (1921), by Suzanne Valadon, his mother
Maurice Valadon

(1883-12-26)26 December 1883
Montmartre, Paris, France
Died5 November 1955(1955-11-05) (aged 71)
Dax, Aquitaine, France
Known forPainting
SpouseLucie Valore [fr]

Maurice Utrillo (French: [mɔʁis ytʁijo, moʁ-]), born Maurice Valadon; 26 December 1883 – 5 November 1955), was a French painter of the School of Paris who specialized in cityscapes. From the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France, Utrillo is one of the few famous painters of Montmartre to have been born there.[1]


Maurice Utrillo and his mother Suzanne Valadon, 1890

Utrillo was the son of the artist Suzanne Valadon (born Marie-Clémentine Valadon), who was then an eighteen-year-old artist's model. She never revealed the father of her child; speculation exists that he was the offspring of a liaison with an equally young amateur painter named Boissy, or with the well-established painter Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, or even with Renoir.[2] (See below under Paternity). In 1891 a Spanish artist, Miquel Utrillo, signed a legal document acknowledging paternity, although the question remains as to whether he was in fact the child's father.[3]

Valadon, who became a model after a fall from a trapeze ended her chosen career as a circus acrobat,[4] found that posing for Berthe Morisot, Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and others provided her with an opportunity to study their techniques. 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, her mother was left to raise the young Maurice, who soon showed a troubling inclination toward truancy and alcoholism.[5] When schizophrenia took hold of the 21-year-old Utrillo in 1904, his mother encouraged him to take up painting. He soon showed real artistic talent. With no training beyond what his mother taught him, he drew and painted what he saw in Montmartre. After 1910 his work attracted critical attention, and by 1920 he was internationally acclaimed. In 1928, the French government awarded him the Cross of the Légion d'honneur.[6] Throughout his life, however, he was interned in mental asylums repeatedly.

Today, tourists to the area will find many of his paintings on postcards, one of which is his very popular 1936 painting entitled Montmartre Street Corner or Lapin Agile.

In middle age Utrillo became fervently religious and in 1935, at the age of fifty-two, he married Lucie Valore and moved to Le Vésinet, just outside Paris. By that time, he was too ill to work in the open air and painted landscapes viewed from windows, from postcards, and from memory.

Although his life also was plagued by alcoholism, he lived into his seventies. Maurice Utrillo died on 5 November 1955 in Hotel Splendid in Dax, at age 72,[7] of a lung disease, and was buried in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre.


Tomb of Utrillo, Cemetery Saint Vincent, Paris

An apocryphal anecdote told by Diego Rivera concerning Utrillo's paternity is related in the unpublished memoirs of one of his American collectors, Ruth Bakwin:

"After Maurice was born to Suzanne Valadon, she went to Renoir, for whom she had modeled nine months previously. Renoir looked at the baby and said, 'He can't be mine, the color is terrible!' Next she went to Degas, for whom she had also modeled. He said, 'He can't be mine, the form is terrible!' At a cafe, Valadon saw an artist she knew named Miguel Utrillo, to whom she spilled her woes. The man told her to call the baby Utrillo: 'I would be glad to put my name to the work of either Renoir or Degas!'"[8]

2010 exhibitions and sale[edit]

In 2010, several retrospective exhibitions were staged, at Oglethorpe University Museum of Art[9] and in Montmartre (Paris) that culminated in an auction of 30 of Utrillo's works on 30 November 2010[10] from the collection of Paul Pétridès [fr], Utrillo's art dealer, whose Galerie Pétridès [fr] also dealt with the likes of Jacques Thévenet. This follows the exhibition of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo's works held in Paris in 2009.[10]

Nazi looted art[edit]

In 2022, Utrillo's Carrefour à Sannois which the Nazis had looted from the French Jewish art collector and dealer Georges Bernheim in 1940, was restituted to the heirs after a long legal battle. The city of Sannois (Val-d'Oise) had bought the painting at Sotheby's in 2004. In 2015 the Commission responsible for dealing with Nazi looted art (the CIVS) advised the town that the painting had been looted. A new law voted by France's National Assembly in 2022 paved the way for restitution. [11][12][13]

In popular culture[edit]

Utrillo is played by Bruno Gouery in the upcoming film Modì directed and coproduced by Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.[14][15]

Selected works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maurice Utrillo | artnet". www.artnet.com. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  2. ^ Peter Schjeldahl (7 February 2012). "Renoir at The Frick: Go See "Dance at Bougival"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  3. ^ Warnod 1981, p. 48.
  4. ^ Warnod 1981, p. 13.
  5. ^ Warnod 1981, pp. 57–59.
  6. ^ Warnod 1981, p. 85.
  7. ^ "Desert Sun 5 November 1955 Edition 02 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  8. ^ 'Parting With the Family van Gogh' in the New York Times, 22 April 2006
  9. ^ "Pastel exhibit, Utrillo oils create colorful contrast at Oglethorpe", Chris North, reporter newspapers.net, 3 June 2010, accessed 1 December 2010
  10. ^ a b PAUL PÉTRIDÈS COLLECTION: 30 Works by Maurice Utrillo Archived 6 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 1 December 2010 (Paul Pétridès [fr] (1901–93) was Utrillo's dealer from 1937, and the author of the catalogue raisonné of his work.)
  11. ^ à 17h26, Par Christophe Lefèvre Le 30 mai 2022 (30 May 2022). "Sannois : le tableau de Maurice Utrillo spolié pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale rendu à son propriétaire". leparisien.fr (in French). Retrieved 14 January 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Sannois. 82 ans après son vol par les nazis, la toile d'Utrillo enfin rendue à son légataire". actu.fr (in French). 30 May 2022. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  13. ^ "Gros plan sur la restitution des œuvres spoliées par les nazis". La Gazette des Communes (in French). Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  14. ^ Pulver, Andrew (11 May 2023). "Johnny Depp casts Al Pacino in biopic of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  15. ^ Goodfellow, Melanie (27 September 2023). "Johnny Depp's 'Modi' Adds New Cast As Shoot Gets Underway In Hungary". Deadline. Retrieved 25 October 2023.


  • Coughlan, Robert (1951). The Wine of Genius: A Life of Maurice Utrillo. New York: Harper & Brothers.
  • Jean Fabris, Claude Wiart, Alain Buquet, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Jacques Birr, Catherine Banlin-Lacroix, Joseph Foret: Utrillo, sa vie, son oeuvre (Utrillo, his life, his works), Editions Frédéric Birr, Paris, 1982.
  • Longstreet, Stephen and Ethel (1958). Man of Montmartre: A Novel Based on the Life of Maurice Utrillo. New York: Funk & Wagnells.
  • Warnod, Jeanine (1981). Suzanne Valadon. Translated by Jennings, Shirley. New York. ISBN 9780517544990. OCLC 7573059.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

External links[edit]