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Utrillo brings Paris to Switzerland

The medieval abbey of Payerne in canton Vaud is playing host to an exhibition which unites the work of Maurice Utrillo with over 100 paintings of his contemporaries such as Picasso, Renoir and Modigliani.

The medieval abbey of Payerne in canton Vaud is playing host to an exhibition which unites the work of Maurice Utrillo with over 100 paintings of his contemporaries such as Picasso, Renoir and Modigliani. It opens on April 9 under the title "Utrillo and the painters of Montmartre".

It is the first time in 30 years that a large body of 60 Utrillo paintings is being shown in Switzerland. The painter, who was born in the Montmartre area in 1883 and died there in 1955, enjoyed a brief period of exceptional creativity between 1910 and 1915 when he experimented with using plaster, sand and other material in addition to paint to achieve a rich variety of whites. The paintings of Utrillo's "white period", several of which are shown in the Payerne exhibition, are mainly picturesque interpretations of buildings and street corners of his native Montmartre.

Unlike the more famous artists who frequented Montmartre in the period, Utrillo, who was self-taught, did not subscribe to any school or 'isms' (Impressionism, Symbolism). His distinction was social and as a character as much as artistic. His mother, Suzanne Valadon, was the favourite model of Degas and Renoir and went on to become the only notable woman painter of the period. Some of her paintings are also shown at the Payerne exhibition, whereas others show her as a model in various paintings by her colleagues and lovers. Valadon's house was a favourite meeting place of the Montmartre 'scene', in which Utrillo grew up. His father remained unknown to everyone involved.

The exhibition will be shown until September 18. It draws from many museums and private collections inside and outside Switzerland. Its organisers, the Payerne Tourist Office and a group of private sponsors, hope to attract tourists by advertising the combination of the venue, a 11th century abbey which ranks among the most beautiful in Switzerland, and the exhibition of modern painters.

by Markus Haefliger

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