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    Sale 2256

    The Modern Age: The Hillman Family Collection

    5 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 14

    Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)

    Rue de la Jonquière

    Price Realised  


    Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)
    Rue de la Jonquière
    signed 'Maurice Utrillo. V.' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    23 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (60 x 81 cm.)
    Painted circa 1910

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    *This lot may be exempt from sales tax as set forth in the Sales Tax Notice in the back of the catalogue.

    Jean Fabris will include this work in his forthcoming Utrillo catalogue raisonné.

    The product of a neglectful upbringing and early alcoholism, Maurice Utrillo led a secluded, troubled life in Paris, and many of his paintings reflect the sadness and isolation that haunted him. Utrillo's mother, artist and model Suzanne Valadon, encouraged the young man to paint, hoping it would be therapeutic for her unruly and socially crippled son. Utrillo tried to work outdoors, but was unnerved by attention from onlookers, and he retired to his studio on the rue Cortot in Montmartre, where he worked from memory and his supply of postcards. Clovis Sagot, a former clown and pastry chef with an eye for the Paris avant-garde, sold Utrillo's paintings (and an occasional Picasso as well) out of a former pharmacy on rue Lafite, a few doors down from Ambroise Vollard's gallery.

    The year 1909, in which Utrillo painted the present work, was a crucial juncture in his early career. Although his application to the Ecole des Beaux Arts had been rejected that year, Utrillo gained initial recognition from both critics and collectors. The dealer Louis Libaude bought several of his works, including La Rue de la Jonquière, and promised Valadon he would look after her son. Three of Utrillo's landscapes were shown at the Salon d'Automne that year. It was during this time that Utrillo realized a personal and unmistakable style in his manìere blanche, the White Period, so named for the bleached and ashen palette he employed in his views of Paris. Utrillo sometimes even mixed plaster with his white oil colors to mimic the weathered facades of buildings.

    La Rue de la Jonquière is notable for its solid and meticulous rendering of perspective, an essential characteristic of Utrillo's White Period. This composition is unusual, however, as it displays an elevated point-of-view that is rarely seen in the artist's paintings. Elevated, downward looking vistas were common in the celebrated Impressionist cityscapes of Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro (fig. 1), which may have influenced Utrillo in this instance. Utrillo's paintings, however, especially La Rue de la Jonquière, reveal a much starker vision of urban life. His decision to paint this seemingly unremarkable street in a working class district of Paris, far from the glamour and liveliness of the great boulevards, suggests the artist's disregard for conventionally picturesque views of Paris. The scene here shows only a few figures and carriages, all of which appear to retreat from the artist's vantage point, a symptom perhaps of Utrillo's diffident social demeanor. The curiously detached and unsentimental manner, bordering on severity, in Utrillo's White Period paintings is this artist's most genuine moment of uncompromising modernity; this attitude presaged the urban melancholy and alienation seen in Giorgio de Chirico's desolate piazzas.

    The artist emphasizes the drab austerity of the urban proletarian environment through his use of pale tonalities and in the repetitive pattern produced the rows of windows, which create a receding grid-like structure, inducing a powerful sense of stasis and even an ominous stillness. The streets and sky share the same gray tonality, against which the white facades of the buildings stand out in relief, accentuated here and there with contrasting earthen hues, which direct the viewer's gaze down the street. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote of La Rue de la Jonquière, "The Utrillo is a picture which reveals its qualities slowly. I remember the first time I saw it, it seemed to me rather gray, but afterwards I realized how subtle the variations of tones were in the wall surfaces and window shutters" (letter to Alex Hillman, September 16, 1955; Hillman Family Archives).

    (fig. 1) Camille Pissarro, Le Boulevard Montmartre, matin d'hiver, 1897. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. BARCODE 25995077


    Louis Libaude, Paris.
    French Art Galleries, New York.
    Alex and Rita K. Hillman, New York (acquired from the above, July 1951).
    Gift from the above to the present owner, 16 October 1968.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation


    A. Werner, Maurice Utrillo, New York, 1952, p. 8 (illustrated in color, pl. 9).
    P. Pétridès, L'oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo, Paris, 1959, vol. I, p. 232, no. 183 (illustrated, p. 233).
    A. Werner, Maurice Utrillo, New York, 1981, p. 74 (illustrated in color, pl. 10).
    E. Braun, Manet to Matisse, The Hillman Family Collection, Seattle and London, 1994, p. 182, no. 71 (illustrated in color, p. 183; dated circa 1909).


    Washington D.C., The Phillips Gallery, Early Paintings by Maurice Utrillo, December 1953-January 1954, no. 3 (illustrated; dated circa 1909).
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Paintings from Private Collections, A 25th Anniversary Exhibition of The Museum of Modern Art, May-September 1955, p. 20 (dated circa 1909).
    New York, Wildenstein & Co., Utrillo, for the Benefit of Hadassah Medical Relief Association, January-March 1957, p. 11, no. 8 (illustrated, p. 23; dated circa 1909).
    Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Maurice Utrillo, Exhibition of Paintings, October-December 1963, no. 15 (illustrated; dated circa 1909).
    Bronx Museum of the Arts, Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, April-May 1972.
    Laramie, The University of Wyoming Art Center, The Hillman Collection, November 1972.
    Jacksonville Art Museum and Corpus Christi, Art Museum of South Texas, The Alex Hillman Collection, October 1973-January 1974, no. 10 (illustrated).
    Hartford Art School, Joseloff Gallery, Modern Masters from the Collection of a New York Foundation, October-November 1981.
    Roslyn, Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts, La Belle Epoque, June-September 1995, p. 93 (illustrated, p. 57; dated circa 1909).