Artist biographies

Maurice Utrillo

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) was born Maurice Valadon – the illegitimate son of model and artist Suzanne Valadon. In 1891 the Spanish painter and art critic Miguel Utrillo i Morlius assumed official paternity of the boy. Maurice had a difficult childhood and turned to drink as a teenager. He also suffered from psychological problems. His mother advised him to take up painting and also gave him lessons. Utrillo began his artistic career with drawings and paintings of street scenes. Although he would repeatedly succumb to his alcohol addiction, painting became his new passion. Utrillo mainly depicted the houses and streets of Montmartre with its old windmills, cafés and places of entertainment. He initially employed a fairly dark palette but later drew his inspiration from the lighter colours of Impressionist canvases by Pissarro and Sisley. His most valued paintings are those of his ‘white period’ (c. 1909-14), in which he chiefly worked in pale tints, sometimes mixing his paint with sand and plaster. These pictures won him the acclaim of artists and critics. However, his real breakthrough came from a joint exhibition with his mother at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in 1923. Utrillo subsequently gained an international reputation. Despite his success he continued to turn to drink and was committed to psychiatric institutions on several occasions. During the final years of his life his poor health prevented him from working outdoors, so he painted from memory and from photographs, or simply what he could see from his window.

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