Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)

Le Kiosque

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)
Le Kiosque
signed 'Maurice. Utrillo. V.' (lower right)
oil on board laid down on cradled panel
19 5/8 x 28¾ in. (49.8 x 73 cm.)
Painted circa 1910
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 19-20 February 1934, lot 164.
Sam Salz, Inc., New York.
Louise Smith, New York.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
Private collection, New Orleans (acquired from the above, October 1972).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
P. Pétridès, L'oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo, Paris, 1959, vol. I, p. 226, no. 176 (illustrated, p. 227).
J. Fabris and C. Paillier, L'oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo, Paris, 2009, p. 580, no. 119 (illustrated, p. 179).
Washington D.C., Phillips Gallery, The Best Period of Utrillo, December 1953-January 1954, no. 8 (illustrated).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Utrillo, a loan exhibition for the benefit of Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc., January-March 1957, p. 12, no. 15 (illustrated, p. 27; titled Place Ravignan).

Lot Essay

The artist and model Suzanne Valadon taught her son Maurice Utrillo to paint by having him copy postcards of the winding, narrow streets of Montmartre, which had become the artistic center of Paris by the early 1900s. After six years of hard work and little reward the young artist had his first success depicting this urban landscape in 1909 when three of his paintings were included in the Salon d'Automne and the writer and art dealer Louis Libaude purchased a number of his works.

The present painting depicts the Place Ravignan with the elegant Kiosque in the center of the composition. Painted in 1910, Le Kiosque belongs to the period in which Utrillo developed his distinctive manière blanche, employing bleached tonalities, rigorous perspective and an uncanny firmness of construction. Roland Dorgelès recounted how "his production never seemed faithful enough for him...To render color, he crushed his tubes of paint and went into a rage when he couldn't find the right one. 'They're not in silver-white, the façades, are they? Not in zinc white...They are made of plaster...' He absolutely needed to obtain the exact same chalky white" (quoted in D. Franck, Bohemian Paris, New York, 2001, p. 10).

Although his life was plagued by alcoholism and self-destruction, Utrillo's artistic genius was unwavering with a remarkable gift for composition and unerring sense of color relation. Shortly after the present work was painted Libaude observed, "Maurice Utrillo is the painter of Montmartre. Since Lupine, I believe no other artist has been able to render with such acute sensitivity the charm of this little provincial town, isolated on the summit of Paris. Utrillo excels in painting the cracked walls of the old houses. The smallest miserable façade takes on in his paintings an extraordinary intensity of color and life" (in Maurice Utrillo, exh. cat., Paris, 1913).

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