Born in Paris in 1883, Maurice Utrillo was the son of the artist and model Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) and the Spanish painter Miguel Utrillo (1862-1934). Encouraged to paint by his mother as a distraction from his need for alcohol, in 1903-4 Maurice executed almost 150 sombre, heavily-impasted landscapes of Montmagny, a village to the north of Paris. In 1906 he returned to Montmartre and began to paint the semi-rural north-eastern suburb of Paris in lighter tones. Influenced by Pissarro and Caillebotte, Utrillo made the subject of Montmartre his own.
From 1909 until around 1914 Utrillo mixed glue, plaster or cement with his paint to obtain the whites for which he became famous. His buildings show a striking contrast between the boldness of his colour and painstaking draughtsmanship achieved by ruler and compass. Eventually, these experiments led to austere monochrome works in beige and grey.
Poor health and shyness led Utrillo to withdraw from Montmartre into a series of nursing homes. His mother and stepfather, the painter André Utter (1886-1948), provided postcards of Montmartre as inspiration. In 1936 he married Lucie Pauwels and moved to Vésinet. His late landscapes have rich colours and strong, black contours. From 1937, at the request of his family, Maurice was looked after by his friend and dealer Paul Pétridès. He died in Dax in 1955.
The work of Maurice Utrillo is represented in Tate Modern, London; the Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris; the National Gallery and the Phillips Collection, Washington DC.