Maurice Loutreuil was born on the sixteenth of March in Montmirail (Sarthe). His mother passed away a month after he was born, and his father, who worked successively as a business agent, a notary clerk and a clerk, died in 1904. He was then left with his step-mother and his brother Arsène, who was three years older than him. The two brothers were very close and entertained an important correspondence which became the major source for information on the painter’s life and work.
In 1895, Loutreuil entered secondary school in Le Mans: he started drawing, and resented the secluded life his father made him lead. From 1901 to 1904, he was a notary clerk for his father, then for other notaries until 1909. He suffered from tuberculosis and was discharged from the army in 1904. His first known works are a 1906 self-portrait, and caricatures drawn under a pseudonym: Naresco. He followed the evening course at the drawing and painting school on the Saint-Pierre square.
He wasn’t satisfied with those lessons however, and moved to Paris. He studied in different academies and in Ferdinand Humbert’s studio, where he was acquainted with Marcel Chotin and Marthe Lepeytre. He quickly gained a scholarship and a loan. In order to make a living, he sold his drawings to several newspapers: l’Indiscret, l’Assiette au beurre, le Charivari…He then took on to photography retouching. At that time, he was intimate with the actress Claudine Rolland. He was admitted in Gabriel Ferrier’s studio but his attempts to enter the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts were always unsuccessful. Eventually, from 1912 to 1914, he worked in Paul Baudoin’s fresco studio, where he met his friend André Masson.
In April 1913, he showed part of a fresco at the National Society of Fine Arts Salon, and in November, a landscape at the 11th Fall Salon. In June, he went abroad for the first time, for he was commissioned a decorative fresco meant to adorn the entrance of the French pavilion in the International Exhibition that took place in Ghent. This travelling experience gave him the desire to live abroad and leave behind his life’s hardships, and the hypocrisy of the bourgeois lifestyle which contradicted his ideals of social balance.
The following year, he gained a scholarship to study frescoes in Tuscany and thus discovered Italy in the company of André Masson. In 1914, he was declared “valid for service” and fled to Sardinia where he led a raving and solitary life, and wasn’t able to work much. He settled in Naples where he was betrayed and handed to the French police: he spent nine months in jail but was declared to be suffering of a reasoning social madness, and therefore irresponsible before the law.
He spent the year of 1917 in Tunisia, where he made several studies and sketches, and a few paintings, whose colors haven’t been well preserved. In 1918, he spent a lot of time in Martigues, where he met the painter Suzanne Dinkespiller, who was to be the second great disappointment in his love life.
At the end of the winter of 1919, Loutreuil stayed in Céret with André Masson and Pinchus Kremègne. Longing to set out for a long steamer journey, he travelled to Barcelona and Marseille. During the summer of that year, he went to Soller de Majorca with Suzanne Dinkespiller. He was back in Paris in autumn, and was acquainted with Raymond and Isadora Duncan. He displayed drawings and paintings in the Bernheim-Jeune, Chéron, Devambez and Sauvage Galleries, and participated in the 31st Independent Artists Salon in January 1920. Despite this acknowledgement, his miserable income hindered Loutreuil’s work: he couldn’t afford his own models and had to work in academies. He became familiar with the anarchists and went through a third disappointing love story. He also suffered from syphilis. Thanks to his parents’ legacy, he moved from Montparnasse to a small house rue du Pré Saint-Gervais, in the heart of Belleville.
In January 1921, the Devambez Gallery organized the Salon of Anonymous Works on the impulse of Loutreuil and his friends. Loutreuil thought that, this way, the public wouldn’t be biased, but he was deceived however. He participated in the collective exhibition of the Ink Bottle, in the second Parnasse exhibition, and in the 14th Fall Salon. He worked a lot in his new studio but his loneliness was increased by his seeing Suzanne Dinkespiller often. He tried to fill that affective void by spending time in Academies and cafés in Montparnasse with his friends Raymond Billette, Pinchus Krémègne, Jean Metzinger, Tjerk Bottema, Léopold Survage, Paul Husson and Géo-Charles.
During the year 1922, Loutreuil was very ill but acutely aware of the work of contemporary artists such as Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy, whom he admired, André Lhote, whose work he rejected, or Jules Pascin and Hermine David, who had just started working. In August and September, he was in Berlin. He met Ilya Ehrenbourg and Serge Charchoune, and came back with fifteen paintings, including the three that were on display for the 15th Fall Salon. He wasn’t able to sell enough of his works to cope with his financial problems, and had to rent his house, but kept a wooden shack in the garden as a studio.
In 1923, he was part of collective exhibitions, including one in the Tessé Museum in Le Mans. He also was present at the first Tuileries Salon. He spent the summer in the Sarthe, and made portraits of his brother and sister-in-law. Back in Paris, he was acquainted with the young painter Christian Caillard who became a great friend of his. Loutreuil nevertheless fled suddenly to Dakar at the end of November. He came back from this Senegalese journey in March 1924, bringing several portraits and landscapes along with him. Irène Champigny, a friend of Christian Caillard, worked hard to sell his paintings while Loutreuil, very much strained by his disease, participated yet in the second Tuileries Salon. He had to be taken to the hospital in November and died on the twenty-first of January 1925. On the twelfth of the same month, he had decided that his friend Caillard would inherit his studio and paintings “to dispose off as he may think fit”.