Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The object of the day: Maurice Utrillo's painting

Maurice Utrillo - Eglise de la Boissière, Rue Principale 
(1935 France)

Oil on canvas
Signed/Inscribed/Dated Signed, inscribed verso, and dated 1935
Dimensions 25.50inch wide 19.50inch high (64.77 cm wide 49.53 cm high)
Framed Dimensions 33 inch framed width 27 inch framed height (83.82 cm framed width 68.58 cm framed height)
Literature Paul Petrides, Maurice Utrillo Catalogue Raisonné, 1964, listed, titled as Eglise et rue principale a la Boissière, Ecole, ref #1633

This painting is accompanied by a Petrides Photo Certificate, certification #1.072

Description / Expertise 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 who had been the father of her child; speculation exists that he was the offspring from 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. In 1891 a Spanish artist, Miguel Utrillo y Molins, signed a legal document acknowledging paternity, although the question remains as to whether he was in fact the child's father.

Valadon, 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, her mother was left in charge of raising the young Maurice, 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. 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. Throughout his life, however, his mental disorder would result in his being interned in mental asylums repeatedly.

In middle age Utrillo became fervently religious and in 1935, at the age of fifty-two, he married Lucie Valore and moved to Le Vesinet, just outside of Paris. Although his life also was plagued by alcoholism, he lived into his seventies. Maurice Utrillo died on 5 November 1955, and was buried in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre.

Utrillo’s solidity of composition, his gift for simplification, and his unerring sense of color relation are instinctive to him. Just as he is not a Primitive, neither is he a Classicist, a Realist, an Impressionist, a Fauve, an Expressionist, nor even a Romantic. He is a complete individualist who defies all classifications.

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