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painting of Montemarte by UtrilloWhen you go to Paris you must visit Montmarte. It’s up on a hill and overlooks the city, an absolutely beautiful place. What’s not beautiful are all the wannabe artists annoyingly bugging you about buying their crappy art. Now, that being said some of them are actually good, but none can compare to the favorite son, Maurice Utrillo.

Maurice Utrillo,  born Maurice Valadon, (26 December 1883 – 5 November 1955) was a French painter who specialized in cityscapes. Born in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France, Utrillo is one of the few famous painters of Montmartre who were born there.

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.

Winter in Paris by Utrillo

Valadon, who had become a model after a fall from a trapeze ended her chosen career as a circus acrobat,[2] found that posing for Berthe Morisot,Pierre-Auguste RenoirHenri 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.[3]When a mental illness took hold of the 21-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.[4] Throughout his life, however, his mental disorder would result in his being interned in mental asylums repeatedly.

Tomb of Utrillo, Cemetery Saint Vicent, Paris

Today, tourists to the area will find many of his paintings on post cards, one of which is his very popular 1936 painting entitled, Montmartre Street Corner or Lapin Agile.

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. By that time, he was too ill to work in the open air and painted landscapes viewed from windows, from post cards, and from memory.

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.

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