Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)
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Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)

Abside de l'église Saint-Léger, Soissons (Aisne)

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955)
Abside de l'église Saint-Léger, Soissons (Aisne)
signed 'Maurice.Utrillo.V.' (lower right); indistinctly inscribed and signed 'Soissons, L'Église Saint Léger, L'Abside. Maurice.Utrillo.V.' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
21 ¼ x 28 ¾ in. (54 x 72.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1918-1920
Alden Brooks, Paris, by whom acquired in Paris in 1924.
Corinne Brooks Cornish, California, by descent from the above in 1964.
Private collection, California, by descent from the above in 1997; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 8 May 2014, lot 244.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli

Lot Essay

The late Jean Fabris confirmed the authenticity of this work in 2014.

The 1910s, during which time Utrillo painted the present work, was a crucial juncture in his early career. Although his application to the École des Beaux Arts had been rejected in 1909, Utrillo gained initial recognition from both critics and collectors. The dealer Louis Libaude signed a contract with the artist and promised his mother, the painter Suzanne Valadon, that he would look after her son. Soon after, three of Utrillo's landscapes were shown at the Salon d'Automne. Utrillo tried to work outdoors, but was unnerved by attention from onlookers, and so he retired to his studio on the rue Cortot in Montmartre, where he worked from memory and from his supply of postcards which his mother had given him.

It was during this time that Utrillo realized a personal and unmistakable style in his Manière blanche, the 'White Period' of around 1910-1912, so named for the bleached and ashen palette he employed in his views of Paris. Utrillo sometimes even mixed plaster with his white oil colours to mimic the weathered facades of buildings. Utrillo's most frequent subjects were buildings in the Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre, added to which he explored the towns and neighbourhoods of France as inspired by the postcards which fuelled his subject matter.

Abside de l'église Saint-Léger, Soissons (Aisne) is a magnificent example of his work from shortly after this crucial moment, displaying the elements and pictorial tenets of his période blanche, notable for its solid and meticulous rendering of perspective, heavily impastoed buildings, that here bring to life the famed landmark of the Église Saint-Léger, a historic Catholic church in Soissons.

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