Maurice Utrillo

Maurice Utrillo
Born Dec. 26, 1883
Montmartre, Paris, France
Died Nov. 5, 1955 (at age 71)
Montmartre, Paris, France
Nationality French
Education Self-taught
Field Painting
Works View Complete Works

The life of French painter Maurice Utrillo began in 1883 in the section of Paris known as Montmarte. He became famous for his paintings of Paris city life. The son of artist Suzanne Valadon, his first taste with art began as a need for therapy. Utrillo was plagued with bouts of alcoholism from an early age and so his mother encouraged him to take up painting as a way to overcome the pain.

Early Years

Utrillo’s struggles with alcoholism and his being diagnosed with a mental illness provided him with the focus needed to channel everything he had into his art. He began to paint obsessively all the while honing his craft. With no formal training, his talent came from his mother who gave home brief lessons.

She herself was untrained, but had a masterful eye from picking up technique from other established artists. As they traveled around Europe, Utrillo was intrigued with the landscape of the city streets that aligned places that he had visited. By the year 1920, Utrillo was achieving major accolades from art efficianados from around the world. This pushed his work into the forefront and provided him a platform to display his home grown creations.

The White Period

Maurice_Utrillo_-_'La_Rue_Norvins_à_Montmartre'As fame and success became thrust upon the very withdrawn painter, his best works were being created. During the years of 1904-1914, Utrillo painted a series of works known in the art world as the “White Period”. These paintings focused on the cityscapes of Paris. The use of aged white and plaster explicitly displayed the traditional Paris streets. The paintings drawn were all true to the imperfections of buildings such as showcasing cracks and dilapidated homes that were left abandoned. The popularity of his paintings during this time encouraged the French government to award him the Legion d’honneur for his famous works. Maurice Utrillo’s success was not enough however, to keep his bouts with alcoholism and mental illness at bay. He was his own worst critic, but that did not stop him from painting 1000s of oil paintings that can be seen all around the world.

Famous Works

Maurice Utrillo not only perfected the use of white, but he later began introducing a lot of color into his oil paintings. Some of his famous works include Moulin de la Galette and Place des Abbesses in the Snow. One of his most famous paintings however can be seen on many postcards in circulation today. Montemarte Street Corner was painted in 1936 and became very popular as it portrayed the vibrancy of the quarter.

Maurice Utrillo’s career was one of many highs and lows. From his humble beginnings as a troubled teenager to his lifelong battle with mental illness and alcohol, Utrillo was able to garner inspiration from the sadness in his life to produce a vast body of work. His oil paintings are still very sought after and tourists still seek out his work when visiting his hometown of Montemarte. Maurice Utrillo died in 1955 in his home and his works remain immortalized onto postcards of beautiful Paris landscapes.