Maurice Utrillo: The Magic of Montmartre
July 11 – September 5, 2010
The French village of Montmartre was considered the hub of artists and its streets saw the likes of both struggling and successful artists: Suzanne Valadon, Modigliani, Dufy, Picasso, Pascin, Vlaminck, Braque, van Dongen, and Derain. These artists lived to paint, write, drink, and spend their nights in the cabaret where they dreamed of success.
Artist Maurice Utrillo was the son of the artist Suzanne Valadon (born Marie-Clémentine Valadon), an eighteen-year-old artist’s model. She never revealed who was the father of her child; speculations exist that he was the offspring of a liaison she had with an equally young amateur painter named Boissy, or with the well-established painter, 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.
Raised primarily by his grandmother, 21-year-old Utrillo took up painting in 1904 after a mental illness took hold of him. He quickly showed real artistic talent, and with no training beyond what his mother taught him, he drew and painted his perspective of the beloved Montmartre. After 1910, his work attracted critical attention and by 1920, he was internationally acclaimed. The French government awarded him the Cross of the Légion d’honneur. Despite the success Utrillo found in his professional life, the artist spent the later part of his life repeatedly interned in a number of mental asylums.