The present work also reveals Utrillo’s unique ability to simultaneously act as a fastidious documentarian of architectural detail and a profound confessor for the soul of Montmartre. While maintaining unmistakable stylisation, the artist sought to escape the traditional limitations of painting and deliver the sensual qualities of the city through his canvases. ‘Dissatisfied with the effects obtainable with zinc white, he tries combining it with plaster, in an effort to reproduce the whites of his beloved walls. In a frenzy of realism, he would like to go so far as to put real moss on the old stones which he strives so hard to reproduce’(Adolphe Tabarant, Utrillo, Paris, 1926). The White Period paintings are veritable portals to Utrillo’s world and Place du Tertre, the setting for the present work, is only a few blocks from both Sacré Cœur and the Lapin Agile, at the heart of Montmartre. The spirit and anxiety of the now legendary community is palpable in L’Hôtel du Tertre, an elegiac testament to the life of a denizen artist. As Carlo Santini writes, ‘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, p. 53).
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