Description

    MAURICE UTRILLO (French, 1883-1955)
    Rue Lepic à Montmartre, circa 1933
    Oil on panel
    12-7/8 x 9-1/8 inches (32.7 x 23.2 cm)
    Signed lower right: Maurice Utrillo V.
    Inscribed lower left: Montmartre

    PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

    PROVENANCE:
    Galerie O Petrides, Paris;
    Collection David Stein, New York;
    William Findlay Gallery, Chicago;
    Christie's, London, Impressionist and Modern Art (Day Sale), June 19, 2007, lot 482;
    Acquired by present owner from the above.

    LITERATURE:
    P. Petrides, L'oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo, vol. III, Paris, 1969, p. 77, no. 1467 (illustrated).

    So then if one of the villages in the outskirts of Paris was able to produce by its street-songs and its saloon-ditties and ballads a fascinating folklore, this goes to prove that there are circumstances when a man's soul is unable to resist the pressure of reality, unable to deny the magic power of the things around him. . . . Enthralled, the artist finds no rest until he reproduces these houses and these walls. . . . This is Utrillo's art. . . .1

    Maurice Utrillo's Post-Impressionist art -- including these two stellar examples, Rue Lepic à Montmartre and Rue Saint-Vincent -- emerged from the bohemian milieu of Montmartre at the turn of the century. During the 1870s, when Napoleon III and his city planner, Baron Haussman, modernized Paris with grand boulevards and new buildings, many of the downtown inhabitants were pushed to the neighboring fringes, including Montmartre, a hill on the Right Bank. Outside of the city limits, Montmartre was not subject to expensive taxes and thus became a popular site for entertainment establishments and artists' residences. In 1883 when Utrillo was born in Montmartre, the famous cabarets Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir were already thriving here, memorialized in the paintings and posters of the local Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. In fact, Utrillo's mother, Suzanne Valadon, a painter and former circus acrobat, posed as a model for Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as for others who frequented Montmartre, including Camille Pissarro, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

    Immersed in the artistic culture of Montmartre, Suzanne Valadon encouraged her young son, Maurice, to paint as a form of therapy combating what would become his lifelong ailments, alcoholism and mental illness. Uninterested in documenting the active social life of Montmartre, Utrillo turned instead to its inanimate streets and houses. His subjects included famous Montmartre landmarks -- the restaurant Moulin de la Galette, the café Lapin Agile, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, composer Hector Berlioz's house, and the area's windmills -- as well as a veritable map of neighborhood streets -- Rue du Mont-Cenis, Rue Muller, Rue Custine, Rue Norvins, Rue Saint-Vincent, and so on. Utrillo depicted his streetscapes in different seasons, thereby recalling the Impressionist experiments of Pissarro or Claude Monet; yet he achieved even greater atmospheric effects with his subdued palette and heavy use of zinc white mixed with sand or plaster. In addition, these neighborhood vistas, with their enclosing walls, shuttered windows, receding roads, and minimal figures (usually shown walking away from the viewer), create a poetic, sometimes lonely mood.

    One of Utrillo's often-repeated subjects, the present Rue Lepic à Montmartre depicts a major thoroughfare in Montmartre. Redesigned by Napoleon III as a carriage road switchbacking up the hill, Rue Lepic was home to numerous artists, including Vincent van Gogh and his brother, Theo, the painter Charles Leandre, and the illustrator Jean-Louis Forain. Here, Utrillo shows the meandering road as it sweeps toward the background restaurant Moulin de la Galette, marked by a windmill. Walls of apartments narrow the midground and draw the viewer's eye to a handful of promenaders, rendered summarily in Utrillo's usual fashion with broad hats, stick limbs, and T-shaped shoes. Utrillo masterfully balances the geometric intricacy of the buildings with the open expanses of sky and road, and he employs a favorite palette of white, aqua, and red.

    Another highlight of this auction, Rue Saint-Vincent, like Rue Lepic à Montmartre, dates to the 1930s, when Utrillo, living in a nursing home due to deteriorating health, worked from postcards of Montmartre. A popular postcard image, Rue Saint-Vincent featured numerous landmarks such as the Montmartre cemetery (where Utrillo is buried), the cabaret Lapin Agile, and gardens and a vineyard, suggested here by the dense foliage behind the street walls. Again, Utrillo captures a turn in the road, hinting at surprise views that lie up ahead. The foreground road and buildings exemplify his signature white palette and his deft draftsmanship and handling of impasto. As the contemporary art critic Lionello Venturi wrote about such paintings:

    [Utrillo] painted houses as though he were a mason building them; he strayed among his images conjuring up the illusion that he was their architect. In spite of this self-delusion, rambling in his own universe, he created a "Utrillized" art, imbued with agonizing yet resigned melancholy breathing a shy and quivering hope, a miraculous art.2

    1J. Cassou, Panorama des Arts Plastiques, Paris, 1960, in I. Fortunescu, Utrillo, London, 1973, p. 26.
    2L. Venturi, "Utrillo," L'Arte, July 1933, in I. Fortunescu, Utrillo, London, 1973, p. 20.




    Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000.

    Condition Report*:

    Minor frame abrasions along extreme edges; scattered spots of surface grime lower left; appears to be small repaired area (approx 2.5 cm) at tip of lower right corner; does not appear to be evidence of in-painting under UV exam.

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2013
    8th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
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