Maurice Utrillo 1883-1955
N05143 Le Passage Cottin
Inscribed 'Maurice Utrillo V.' b.l.
Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 28 3/4 (54 x 73)
Bequeathed by Montague Shearman through the CAS 1940
Prov: With Louis Libaude, Paris (purchased from the artist); with Galerie Van Leer, Paris; Montague Shearman and Sir Rex de C. Nan Kivell, Paris and London; Montague Shearman, London
Exh: The CAS: Second Loan Exhibition of Foreign Paintings, M. Knoedler, London, February 1928 (55) as 'Montmartre', lent by Montague Shearman; The Montague Shearman Collection, Redfern Gallery, London, April-May 1940 (21, repr. in colour); The Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (138); A Selection from the Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, CEMA touring exhibition, September 1942-September 1943 (99); Acquisitions of the CAS, Tate Gallery, September-October 1946 (84)
Lit: Paul Pétridès, L'Oeuvre complet de Maurice Utrillo (Paris 1959), No.171, Vol.1, p.222, repr. p.223 as 'Rue à Montmartre' c.1910
Repr: John Rothenstein, Modern Foreign Pictures in the Tate Gallery (London 1947), pl.85; Studio, CXLI, 1951, p.131 in colour
This picture has been known since at least 1928 simply as 'Montmartre', but it is actually a view up the Passage Cottin with at the end a flight of stone steps leading up towards the Sacre-Coeur. This identification, which was first suggested by N. Kornbluth, has been confirmed by the discovery of the picture postcard which Utrillo seems to have used to paint from [reproduced p.737; not reproduced here]. The viewpoint corresponds exactly and the scene is cut at the same points on either side, but the postcard is slightly narrower in format and the composition has been extended a little at top and bottom.
A striking feature is the way the scene has been simplified throughout. Whereas the view in the postcard is rather cluttered and disordered, Utrillo has simplified the forms and heightened and purified the tonal contrasts. For instance, the building on the right originally had an ornate wrought-iron balcony in front of the second floor window (with similar balconies extending down the side facing into the Passage Cottin) and there was some additional ironwork along the top of the awning. Even the inscriptions have been radically simplified. The building on the right had the word 'CAFE' across the striped awning and 'BIERE DE MUNI' (the last word cut short by the edge of the postcard) along the bottom; Utrillo omitted the first inscription altogether and substituted for the latter the single word 'RESTAURANT'. The only inscription which corresponds exactly is the sign 'J. ARVIS'. Similarly, the building on the left bore more and different lettering, with the name along the top and the words 'Dépôt No.11 | Lait à 20F la fille' repeated on either side of the doorway. Utrillo replaced these by the one word 'LAITERIE'. The postcard also shows the street with more than thirty people standing around, whereas in the painting it is almost deserted.
Utrillo painted two other pictures of the Passage Coffin about 1911 and 1922 (Pétridès Nos.215 and 950), both showing views from further up the street and closer to the flight of steps.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.736-8, reproduced p.737