- Maurice Utrillo
- RUE NORVINS
- Signed Maurice Utrillo .V (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
- 31 by 21 1/2 in.
- 81 by 54.6 cm
The present work depicts the neighborhood Utrillo loved, and which provided the inspiration for much of his oeuvre. Montmartre and its angled, cobblestone streets, shops and bars, often sprinkled with pedestrians and capped by the dome of Le Sacré Coeur were Utrillo’s life work. Although Montmartre had been a source of inspration for artists before him (fig. 1), Utrillo succeeeded in developing a vocabulary uniquely his own in which to depict his beloved quartier. A strength and quietude can be found in his depictions of the neighborhood’s famous landmarks.
According to Carlo Santini, “Utrillo is a poet: the lonely, isolated poet of a reality that is sometimes trivial in the extreme, sometimes majestic and sumptuous…Utrillo has no need of any special figurative setting: walls, grilles, hoardings, trees, lamp-posts, cobblestones, rows of houses, cathedral towers, pavements, fences, factory chimneys, and great dark windows all take their place in his work with their own peculiar expressiveness. These and many other objects are imbued with feeling, sometimes with drama; they suggest the passage of time, the waning of life, the desperate melancholy of certain times and seasons” (Carlo Santini, Modern Landscape Painting, London, 1972, pp.53).
This painting of the rue Norvins was painted in 1919, a moment in Utrillo's life that was simultaneously turbulent, considering his bouts of alcoholism and the loss of his friend and fellow artist Amedeo Modigliani, and joyous as he received great praise from critics such as Adolphe Tabarant following the resounding success of his exhibition at Galerie Leputre. As much as Utrillo’s own life was in flux so this painting technically represents a stylistic change. Herein is a departure from his recent période blanche or white period, although he has not yet fully embraced the période colorée which was soon to follow.
Fig. 1 Pierre Bonnard, Rue Norvins, 1905, oil on canvas, Private Collection