Born Maurice Valadon on December 25, 1883 (Christmas Day) in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France, he is one of the few famous painters of Montmartre who was actually born there.
The offspring of a liaison between a teen-age model, Marie-Clémentine Valadon, and, so it is thought, a young amateur painter named Boissy. The boy's mother was a clothing-designer and painter's model who posed for Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and as a circus-rider for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Toulouse-Lautrec introduced her -- an artist herself, painting under the name of Suzanne Valadon -- to the great master Edgar Degas, who taught and encouraged her to paint.
Maurice Valadon was only a child when the Spanish writer and art critic, Miguel Utrillo, a friend of his mother's, in a spirit of kindness, bestowed upon him his own name.
With no real training, other than what his mother taught him, he drew and painted what he saw all around him in Montmartre. He presented strange landscapes which delighted the man in the street and astonished the connoisseur. These pictures inspired many artists to re-examine their world and, instead of turning to abstraction, once again to re-create reality.
Critics only took note of him after 1910. By 1920, he had become a legendary figure, internationally known. In 1929, the French government awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor. Today, tourists to the area will find many of his paintings on post cards, one of which is the very popular 1936 painting titled: Montmartre street corner / Lapin Agile. (See:Lapin Agile)
In 1935, at age 52, he married Lucie Valore and moved to Le Vesinet, just outside of Paris.
He died on November 5, 1955, and is buried in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre.
Recent paintings by Utrillo have sold for close to US$1 million.