Sunday, December 27, 2009

Utrillo from the Archive.org

Well, as long as I brought him up, I guess I ought to tell the story. It is a good one. Utrillo was the son of Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938). Valodon was the illegitimate daughter of a laundress who at fifteen joined the circus as a trapeze artist. An injury sent her into the modeling business in Montmartre.
That was the place to be for the wild artistic life of the era. She modeled for Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas (with whom she was a life time friend) and Puvis de Chavannes. Here is a picture of her by Lautrec.

She had a son, probably by Puvis although it might have been Renoir or,well who knows. She never said, and may herself not have known. Valedon was a mistress to many artists and used the opportunity to study with them. She eventually became one of them and a successful painter herself.

Utrillo was a sort of teen age delinquent and had serious mental problems in his late teens. His mother encouraged him to paint. He hung around the artists area of Paris, Montmartre painting depressing streetscenes and became better and better known, until by the 1920's he was an internationally known artist.

The painting I showed yesterday:

"Lapin Agile" is available on post cards all over Paris and is an icon. I set up and painted exactly this view a few years ago, although I actually cropped it a little differently. Montmartre is a tourist area with an art theme. Picasso and Modigliani lived here and a lot of the other Parisian painters of that generation. Today there are sketch artists there doing portraits on newsprint. Most of them were from Eastern Europe and were entranced by the Soltek easel I was using. I told them it was the lunar lander.

The scene is absolutely unchanged since then. It is a little unnerving. I suppose they preserve it as a tourist attraction. but there are few places where you can go and be in an environment so like a famous painting. There are lots of street painters in Paris, but they are like the musicians playing on the street in America. Few are very good, maybe none. The locals thought I was amazing ( their standards were very low) and as I worked, I had dozens of Frenchmen standing behind me and saying Bon! all day. They tried to hand me money but I turned it down. I did however happily take their cigarettes. Galoises Caporals, a fine smoke, no filter.

Utrillo was plagued his entire life by recurrent alcoholism and insanity. He was hospitalized a number of times. At the end of his life he married and underwent some kind of a religious conversion. Despite all of the liquor, madness and marriage he lived into his seventies.

I have posted his art not because I think he is a great painter to emulate, but more because I think he falls into the category of things an artist ought to know about.

6 comments:

bobm said...

56muffinVery interesting story,Must of been an interesting guy,and his mother must of been quite a character as well! Thanks for the bio. By the way Are you painting all that fresh snow you received? we got 14 inches here and It is fun to be out painting1

Simone said...

"Despite alcoholism, insanity AND marriage", he lived into his seventies. Stape, you may want to edit that statement before your wife sees it. I don't think it came out right!

billspaintingmn said...

Tortured soul.
Do you suppose he was notarized for his work or the folks he knew?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bob;
WE got rain.I was disappointed.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Simone:
Must have been a typo.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill;
I think it was mostly for the story. but the paintings do have a Look. I don't like that look, but I think the larger population sees that and thinks that's good.They are capable of seeing that there is a look, but not capable of deciding if it is a good look.
........Stape