French painter of townscapes.
The natural son of the painter Suzanne Valadon (1867–1938), he was adopted by the Spanish architect and writer Miguel Utrillo in 1891. While still a boy he underwent the first of numerous treatments for alcoholism and it was on his release from hospital that his mother encouraged him to take up painting as a form of therapy.
His early paintings in thick rough textures and sombre colours depict Parisian street scenes, particularly of the Montmartre and Montmagny districts, as in Les Toits à Montmagny (1906–07), and the years 1904–08 have been called his ‘Montmagny period’. Between 1909 and 1914 Utrillo used white extensively in his work. His sensitive interpretations transform mundane settings, conveying an aura of strength and serenity as in L'Impasse Cottin (c.1910). It is during this ‘white period’ that Utrillo is considered to have reached the peak of his achievement. There followed a period extending into the 1930s in which heightened colour and increased stress on line was combined with the use of figures in such paintings as Boulevard in the Suburbs of Paris (1924).
In 1935 Utrillo married Lucie Pauwels, who introduced a greater degree of sobriety and order into his life, and they went to live in Le Vesinet, where he remained until his death. His later works (1930–55) were inconsistent in quality, frequently with poor drawing and colouring, and they are generally regarded as inferior to his previous work.