Maurice Utrillo was born in 1888 in the middle of the Impressionist Era. He died in 1955 having lived through some of the most exciting movements in 20th century art.
A view of Sacre Coeur on a bright morning. Sunshine falls over the City of Lights. There is a tricolour flapping over the Moulin de la Galette that Maurice will today capture for the umpteenth time, thinking of nothing but recording the scene. He will never tire of the act, and these streets will be painted over and over; a simplistic style dominated by the buildings of his native Montmartre.
If it were not for Susan, Maurice may never have thought about expressing himself through art. But then, what are mothers for if not to encourage their offspring? He is thankful for his mother, because now he uses his art as surrogate communication, banishing crippling self-doubt by distancing himself from intimate contact with other people. His uses his art as catharsis. It helps to exorcise his inner and outer demons and even then, he remains terminally shy.
The cold weather is on the way, and Maurice will pass another St Stephen’s Day birthday and stare at the sky in expectation. Then he will take a board and animate another snowy scene with a flurry of strokes. This growing collection of snow scenes and simple deserted streets with greyed buildings is accumulating. Maurice knows exactly what will happen, because things always seem to be worth more when you leave a legacy. Just like Picasso and his colours, people will probably call this his White Period and will command a premium with future investors. It’s inevitable.
None of which matters now, as Maurice reaches out for the bottle resting on the small wooden table. ‘Un verre. Encore un coup. J’ai bien besoin d’un coup.’ Anything for another drink. When the brandy is all gone, Maurice puts on his scruffy brown coat and staggers outside. He shuffles past the churches and alleyways in an alcoholic daze, but it doesn’t prevent him taking note of the Rue Lamarck and the Rue Tholezé for later impasto depictions. If nothing else, he knows that his dealer, Libaude, will take yet another consignment of canvasses to his gallery. The older man bails Maurice out even in his darker periods because he knows there is money to be made.
Maurice supposes that eventually, with his health in decline, he will be confined to his room, but a least he will still have the view through his window and all the familiar scenes. He will remember that he picked up his brushes and made the everyday so much more than that. His flaking Parisian walls and his views overlooking the citizens of France will, he is sure, be remembered as simple but not ordinary, not at all ordinary.
About the writer:
Henry Bladon is a writer of short fiction and poetry based in Somerset in the UK. His background is working in mental health and has degrees in psychology and mental health policy. He also has a PhD in literature and creative writing. His work has been published in Entropy, Friday Flash Fiction, The Drabble, Mercurial Stories, The Ekphrastic Review, and Spillwords Press, among other places.