Painted in 1927, Rue d'Alésia belongs to the period in which Utrillo's style was marked by an increasing richness of colour and boldness of motif. This visual éclat was a resounding departure from the more nuanced and tonally reticent works of pre-1920, and reflected perhaps the growing confidence that Utrillo was experiencing in his art, despite the continuing diffulties of his personal circumstances. The 1920s were certainly years in which Utrillo's public reputation as the melancholic chronicler of bohemian life in Montmartre underwent a sea-change. A series of successful exhibitions at the prestigious Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris brought commercial success, and official recognition soon followed, with Utrillo receiving the cross of the Légion d'Honneur in August 1928. The public appetite for Utrillo's peculiar vision of modern city life also continued to grow unabated: 1927 saw the publication of no fewer than five monographs dealing with his art.
The present work also displays the broadening of thematic concerns seen in Utrillo's art in the 1920s. The Rue d'Alésia, for instance, is situated in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris, to the east of Montparnasse and on the other side of the city from his beloved Montmartre and the modern home on the avenue Junot into which he had moved with his mother Suzanne Valadon in the preceding year. The road is also populated by a typical cast of characters for Utrillo's middle-period: brightly dressed, broad-beamed ladies bustle along the pavement with the occasional male figure, slight and informally attired, making his quiet journey.