Where in Montmartre (Paris) did Maurice Utrillo stand when he painted this view of the "Maquis"?
March 26, 2012 5:35 PM   Subscribe

My late grandfather painted an interpretation of one of Maurice Utrillo's depictions of the "Maquis" of Montmartre, in Utrillo's time a very poor area of the well-known Paris neighbourhood. Which Utrillo work did my granddad use as a blueprint, and where exactly was Utrillo's vantage point?

I'll be visiting Paris this weekend, and I'd like to visit the location if at all possible. Now, I know the Maquis was demolished long ago, and I hold no illusions that the location will be even remotely recognizable as the scene in the painting. But if it could be determined that Utrillo's vantage point for the work was in the middle of what is now a residential building or something, I'd still be perfectly happy.

Essentially my question is twofold:

1) Which painting did my grandfather base himself on? Here are some images of Utrillo paintings of scenes similar to my grandfather's homage. Note that this just a random collection of similar-looking ones I found on the web during a few days' searching, it is not necessarily, and most probably not, exhaustive.

2) What was Utrillo's vantage point for the original painting? There are definitely some clues in the original works, as almost all of them show what is definitely (?) a tower of the Sacré-Cœur in the top left, and a windmill which could well be the Moulin de la Galette, or possibly a different mill that did not survive to the present day, on the right. Another clue could be the road sloping upwards on the left side of the painting, but I have no idea if it survives.

My closest guess based on online research would be somewhere around the Avenue Junot / Rue de l'Abreuvoir area, as it seems to fit both the historical Maquis and the area where Utrillo lived (and rarely seemed to stray from?). I am also aware that it's a popularly depicted area of Paris in films and the like. Nevertheless, never having been to Paris, I can only judge from what I find on the web, including Google Street View, the latter being of course of little use given the historical changes in the area.

I have tried to contact relevant institutions, notably Utrillo Experts in Florida, and the Maurice Utrillo Association and Montmartre Museum in France, but they either haven't responded yet or required significant financial compensation for any aid in my research, which I cannot afford.

Also, some of you may wonder about the year in which the original was painted. Despite my research so far I'm finding this suprisingly difficult to determine, not least because I'm not yet sure about which original to go with. My working hypothesis is around the 1930s, but then other sources maintain the Maquis was demolished in the 1910s. So I'm completely prepared to be proven wrong.

Lastly, my grandfather was of course an amateur and his interpretation of the Utrillo painting has little value beyond the sentimental. So does my little pilgrimage, as you will understand. Again, I have no illusions of re-discovering a fabled Montmartre of times past. I am not expecting a Woody Allen film: I'd be happy with a bare wall.

Thank you in advance for any and all responses, Metafilter.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it might be 11 Hameau des Artistes (google map is probably not quite accurate) where Utrillo stayed for a while.. And here's more Utrillo paintings to compare. Have fun!
posted by nightwood at 7:13 PM on March 26, 2012

Utrillo painted a ton of pictures of Paris, even sometimes painting the same scenes from memory, many times over. It is possible to pinpoint most of Utrillo's pictures around the city, but I wonder if he sometimes (unintentionally?) created composites from remembered sites. Anyway, a good art library (say, at a museum or university) will have the enormous 4-volume catalogue rainsonne of Utrillo's work, which you can flip through on your own.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 8:05 PM on March 26, 2012

Judging from the topography, my best guess is that it was from here, looking north by northwest.

If this was the location, then the windmill could not possibly be Moulin de la Galette; maybe a different Moulin that no longer exists. The dome is certainly Sacré-Cœur.

(I am intrigued by this question and I will keep looking for the exact location.)
posted by at the crossroads at 9:26 PM on March 26, 2012

Thanks for the responses, guys.

at the crossroads, if you look NNW from that location you wouldn't have the Sacre-Coeur on the left, would you?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:42 AM on March 27, 2012

It looks like the Moulin Rouge to me. As in, it's a red windmill on top of a building. So, seconding Nightwood or the bend at the bottom of Rue Cauchois if that's the back of the windmill (which seems to be).
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:32 AM on March 27, 2012

Might have been this Utrillo Painting your grandfather used.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:39 AM on March 27, 2012

That's certainly the closest one I've seen so far, lucia__is__dada, thanks! It's amazing how many of these Utrillo made.

I'll check out the locations again on Google Maps tonight. Thanks so much for the input so far, everyone. If anyone else has something to add, please do chime in!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:23 AM on March 27, 2012

Of course I meant looking NE. I don't know why I said NNW. Just confused, I guess.
posted by at the crossroads at 9:25 AM on March 27, 2012

I had to get back to it. I found a Utrillo letter with illustration: LA MAISON DE MAURICE UTRILLO, AVENUE JUNOT, MONTMARTRE, 1927. He lived on number 11 and, if you zoom in, I assume that's him in the window saying hi. The windmill says moulin de la galette and there's a bit of the Sacre Coeur. Considering the moulin was facing South and if you face the moulin on rue Lepic, number 11 on avenue Junot would be to its left, that's an odd view (see old plan, it has building numbers and the round bits are windmills).

Another one of his paintings, "La maison de Poulbot, Avenue Junot" has a bit of the Sacre Coeur showing and the moulin also but now seen from another angle.

I'm guessing he painted "your" painting from somewhere on or North of Avenue Junot (the Maquis was right North of it) or/and he inserted the Sacre Coeur and Moulin on every painting from around there.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2012

Fascinating, thanks again lucia__is__dada. The perspective seems right around 11 Avenue Junot, plus you would be looking toward Rue Norvins, which does slope gently upward in much the same way as in the painting. Of course, given the amount of time passed and the geography of Montmartre that doesn't have to mean anything.

Do I understand correctly that it is your opinion that Utrillo more or less inserted the two familiar landmarks at will?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:14 PM on March 27, 2012

I'm sure he could see them from the maquis or from Impasse de Girardon (as this postcard proves) but I'm guessing they sort of made its way into scenes he might have painted from memory as a way to signal location even if the perspective wasn't correct.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:02 AM on March 28, 2012

Great, thanks again for your input. This should at least put me in the right direction.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:11 AM on March 28, 2012

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