Maurice Utrillo

Maurice Utrillo, a 19th century French painter, seems to be the very incarnation of a character imagined for the Comédie Humaine. Unwanted child, absent mother, alcoholism, depression, suicide attempt, all the elements seem to come together to make him a cursed artist. And yet his work is all the stronger, bearing witness to the bohemian Paris and province of the early 20th century.

Born in 1883, at the foot of the Butte Montmartre, Maurice Utrillo is a child defying social conventions. Born to an unmarried mother and an unknown father, he is nevertheless recognized by Miguel Utrillo, a Catalan artist. Although he gave him his name, Miguel Utrillo did not keep any link with the mother and little Maurice. After a troubled childhood followed by a chaotic adolescence, with school failures, nervous breakdowns and fights, Maurice Utrillo fell into alcoholism at a very young age, which led him to a detoxification program at the Sainte-Anne hospital at the age of 18. Worried about his addiction, his mother steers him towards painting when he leaves the hospital.

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His early works are influenced by Impressionism, with a palette of contrasted colours, when the themes tackled are close to his bohemian life through Montmartre, its cabarets, its alleys, its mound but also the old churches. His great talent was quickly noticed and he exhibited in 1909 in the gallery of Clovis Sagot. The work of the artist, which could be wrongly described as naïve, challenged the merchant Libaude and subjugated Paul Pétridès. If Utrillo presents the profile of cursed artists, he meets with success during his lifetime. Indeed, recognition was not long in coming and, from 1913 and 1919, solo exhibitions were devoted to him. He was an unfailing success. Maurice Utrillo is still today a sure value on the art market, and an artist much sought after by collectors.
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