La rue du Mont-Cenis sous la neige
As World War 1 began, Maurice Utrillo moved into a small studio overlooking the rue du Mont-Cenis in Montmartre – the street which became one his favorite subjects.
“He would depict it in countless variations over the course of his career, under different weather conditions and lighting. With its high viewpoint overlooking the roofs of Paris and its winding concrete walls with their regular arrangement of windows, the street offered the true painter of Montmartre the ideal subject with which to express his interest in urban landscape.” (Christie’s)
Invitation to Montmartre
According to Christie’s, Maurice Utrillo’s 1935 painting La rue du Mont-Cenis sous la neige “is reminiscent of the peak of Utrillo’s career known as ‘the white period’ (1912-1914)” because the painting is “dominated by white, grey and pink color tones…”. Occupying roughly 3 by 4.5 feet, the painting is impressive, and “its plunging angle into the street invites the viewer … to enter Utrillo’s universe at the heart of Montmartre.”(Christie’s)
Who is Maurice Utrillo?
Born in 1883, Maurice Valadon Utrillo, the French painter specializing in cityscapes, spent much of his life in or near the Paris neighborhood of Momtmartre, His mother Suzanne Valadon posed for artists like Morisot, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Degas and eventually became a skillful artist herself. Unfortunately, she never identified Maurice’s father. In 1891 a Spanish artist and friend of Suzanne, Miguel Utrillo y Molins, signed a legal document acknowledging paternity, although questions about his true paternity remain.
The Dark Side
*Interesting note: Utrillo’s mother, Suzanne Valadon, is the model used by Renoir in Dance at Bougival. She also painted the portrait of her son pictured below. (Utrillo and Renoir seem to bear a striking resemblance to one another….).
According to The Art Story, by 1909 Utrillo’s alcoholism and recurrent depression had begun to take a serious toll on his health, frequently requiring hospital care. Furthermore, “When not hospitalized, he was often watched over by a family member either in his studio or in a hotel room.” During these dark times, Utrillo was unable to work.
The Silver Lining
Evidently Utrillo began drawing from postcards during times of illness when he could not work outdoors. With his interest in art encouraged by his mother, Utrillo developed an admiration for the Impressionists Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro,
At age 22, he sold his first painting and by 1909 he was exhibiting his work at the prestigious Salon d’Automne. By 1910, he had achieved considerable critical acclaim, having developed a style of landscape painting that combined features of Post-Impressionism and Cubism. (The Art Story)
“Unlike his idols and mentors, however, Utrillo was virtually untrained, and his greatest achievement must surely have been adapting his unrefined technique to successive avant garde styles – Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism – to attain considerable critical and financial success.” The Art Story
Along with his friend Amedeo Modigliani, the two painters led a bohemian lifestyle fueled by alcohol, which ultimately led to Utrillo’s untimely death in 1955. Today, Maurice Utrillo’s works are held in many prestigious collections including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, among others. (see Artcyclopedia)
Birth of Modern Art
With tumult comes change, and the early decades of the 20th century saw the explosion of new ideas in art, music, literature, and philosophy – much centered in Paris, the gathering place for the avant-garde. When speaking of art, avant-garde means “art that is innovatory, introducing or exploring new forms or subject matter.” (Tate)
‘Avant-garde’ is originally a French term, meaning … vanguard or advance guard (the part of an army that goes forward ahead of the rest). It first appeared with reference to art in France in the first half of the nineteenth century…. (Tate)
The Art Story explains Maurice Utrillo’s place in the development of Modern Art:
“Despite having been shunned by the French artistic establishment during much of his career, he is considered one of the pioneers of The School of Paris, the pre-World War I, modern artistic movement characterized by experimentation and pluralism.”
Louis Libaude, Utrillo’s first dealer, wrote:
“For any sympathetic Parisian, Maurice Utrillo evokes nostalgia for one’s native town, its skies, the stoic sense of its buildings […] His landscapes are often rows of streets, their miniscule details lost in the distance. Alternatively, he may choose to depict the simple beauty of a wall, a few trees and the sky. Intrinsically, his work is that of both artist and poet” (quoted in G. Coquiot, Cubistes, futuristes, passéistes: essai, sur la jeune peinture et la jeune sculpture, Paris, 1914, p. 191). (Christie’s)
“Intrinsically, his work is that
of both artist and poet”
quoted in G. Coquiot (Christie’s)
Click For Enlarged Detail
Best viewed At Sunnyside
- Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)
- La rue du Mont-Cenis sous la neige
- signé ‘Maurice, Utrillo, V,’ (en bas à droite) et situé ‘- Montmartre -,’ (en bas à gauche)
- huile sur toile
- 97 x 146 cm.
- Peint vers 1935
- Source: Christie’s
- Link: https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/maurice-utrillo-la-rue-du-mont-cenis-sous-6132142-details.aspx?from=salesummery&intobjectid=6132142&sid=56834617-801d-45cf-b8a6-fde5befe16cb
- Suzanne Valadon at wikipedia
- The Valadon Drama, The Life of Suzanne Valadon, by John Storm (1923).
- Amedeo Modigliani at The Art Story
artnet.com, “Maurice Utrillo“, biography, http://www.artnet.com/artists/maurice-utrillo/6 (accessed 16 Jan 2019).
“Maurice Utrillo Artist Overview and Analysis“. [Internet]. 2019. TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors, Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors, Available from: [Accessed 17 Jan 2019]
Wikipedia contributors, “Maurice Utrillo,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maurice_Utrillo&oldid=856203235 (accessed January 17, 2019).
Tate.org, “Avant-garde”, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/avant-garde (accessed 17 Jan 2019).
Thanks for Reading! 🙂