This is another one of the art books I’ve picked up recently for literally a couple of coins at the amusingly named BookOff secondhand chain in Japan. And if it wasn’t for them, I’d never have heard about Utrillo whose catalogues are a fairly frequent sight on their shelves. Utrillo was the love child of Suzanne Valadon and a famous impressionist painter whom Valadon posed for in her youth. She never revealed the name of the father, but there is speculation it was Renoir, she is the beauty he painted dancing in one of his most famous paintings, the name of which I forget.
No matter. Utrillo suffered from alcoholism and mental problems. It was his mum (who incidentally became quite an accomplished artist herself), who encouraged her son to take up painting, and she taught him everything he needed to know to get set up as an artist.
His lifework seems to have been paintings of buildings in the section of Paris he grew up in. They veer from impressionistic to realistic to expressionistic, and some of them are pretty good. However, as interesting as they are, it was the inclusion of the portraits by his mum that brings this collection to life. I snapped my faves from the book here:
No. 26 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2019.
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Patrick Sherriff publishes a monthly newsletter highlighting good fiction about Japan and featuring an original painting or sketch. He lives in Abiko, Japan, with his wife and two daughters.