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La Cathédrale de Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)

La Cathédrale de Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)
signed 'Maurice Utrillo. V.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 1⁄2 x 25 7⁄8 in. (92.6 x 65.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1912-1914
Van Leer collection (by 1931).
Mrs. Lloyd Bruce Wescott, New Jersey (by 1939).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York.
Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt, New York (acquired from the above, January 1956); Estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, 8 May 2013, lot 173.
Private collection, London (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
W. Bondy, "Maurice Utrillo," Kunst und Künstler, vol. XXIII, April 1925, p. 258 (illustrated; dated circa 1911).
A. Tabarant, Utrillo, Paris, 1926 (illustrated, p. 58).
A. Basler, Maurice Utrillo, V, Paris, 1931 (illustrated in color on a frontispiece).
S. Miyata, Utrillo, Tokyo, 1936 (illustrated, pl. 12).
M. Georges-Michel, Chefs d'oeuvre de peintres contemporains, New York, 1945 (illustrated).
P. Courthion, Utrillo, Bern, 1947, no. 46 (illustrated).
A. Werner, Maurice Utrillo, New York, 1953 (illustrated in color, pl. 11).
"Utrillo's Charmed Simplicity," Arts, vol. 31, no. 5, February 1957, p. 20 (illustrated).
P. Pétridès, L'oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo, Paris, 1959, vol. I, p. 252, no. 201 (illustrated, p. 253).
Utrillo and the Painters of Montmartre, Milan, 1970, p. 31 (illustrated in color, pl. 13).
A. Werner, Maurice Utrillo, New York, 1981, p. 114 (illustrated in color, pl. 30; dated circa 1913).
J. Fabris and C. Paillier, L’oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo, Paris, 2009, vol. I, no. 232 (illustrated in color, p. 296; with incorrect support).
Paris, Galerie Barbazanges, Exposition d'oeuvres anciennes de Maurice Utrillo, 1925, no. 58 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Art in our Time, May-June 1939, no. 104 (illustrated; dated 1913).
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor and San Francisco De Young Museum, Seven Centuries of Painting: A Loan Exhibition of Old and Modern Masters, December 1939-January 1940, p. 55, no. Y-217 (illustrated).
Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery; Cincinnati Art Museum and St. Louis Art Museum, French Paintings of the Twentieth Century, 1900-1939, December 1944-February 1945, no. 741 (illustrated).
Newark Museum, Owned in New Jersey: Paintings and Decorative Arts from New Jersey Homes, October-December 1946, no. 65.
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., Utrillo: A Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc., January-March 1957, no. 21 (illustrated; dated 1911).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Collects, July-September 1968, p. 46, no. 225.
Sydney, The Art Gallery of New South Wales; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse, April-September 1975, no. 108 (illustrated, p. 247; dated 1913).

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Lot Essay

The artist and model Suzanne Valadon encouraged 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 the 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. 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 present large canvas depicts the majestic soaring façade of Chartres cathedral. Painted circa 1912-1914, La Cathédrale de Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) belongs to the period in which Utrillo developed his distinctive manière blanche, employing bleached tonalities, rigorous perspective and an uncanny firmness of construction. The quiet atmosphere and stillness of the composition is enhanced by the modulation and variation of white pigment, meticulously obtained by mixing plaster with glue and zinc oxide, through which the artist was able to achieve a simulation of the textural effects of the surfaces of the medieval building. 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. Around the time the present work was painted, Utrillo's dealer Louis Libaude, writing under his pseudonym Louis Lormel, observed: “Utrillo excels in painting the cracked walls of old houses. The smallest miserable front takes on in his paintings an extraordinary intensity of color and life… He is also a painter of the suburbs… He loves the morose steeples of old churches, the deserted streets of the gloomy suburbs… Maurice Utrillo evokes, above all, for every sensitive Parisian the nostalgia of his native city, its sickly sky, its resigned houses” (Maurice Utrillo, exh. cat., Galerie Eugène Blot, Paris, 1913).

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