Trio infernale

The Infernal Trio: André Utter, an impossible love, and yet…

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André Utter
André Utter around 1930

André Utter (1886-1948), the third member of the cursed artist trio of rue Cortot in Montmartre, was a gifted painter, even if he wasn’t lucky. His works passed almost unnoticed, shadowed by the success of another member of the trio, his friend Maurice Utrillo, the drunkard. What a walloping for André, who during the day had to witness the lucrative sales of the friend’s works and at night he had to tuck him in after the usual binge. Well, this also happened during the day, but let’s move on.

(Read about the sad and highly alcoholic story of Maurice Utrillo in the former article: The Infernal Trio: Maurice Utrillo, Montmartre’s Bottle.”)

André Utter wasn’t one to give up: burying his wounded pride, he decided to be Maurice’s manager, a particularly lucrative decision. However, things couldn’t go smooth for the most tormented trio in Montmartre, and this is why: André was younger than Maurice, let alone than Suzanne Valdon, who was Maurice’s mother, but this didn’t stop the passionate painter from becoming her lover. So, Suzanne, at 44, fell madly in love with a handsome artist of 23, younger than her own son who was 26. The legend of the Cursed Trinity was born. Nothing’s too strange for the crazy butte.

(Read about Suzanne Valadon’s crazy bohémienne life, Montmartre’s paintress and model, in the article:The Infernal Trio: the terrible Suzanne“)

Trio infernale
The Infernal Trio after many years of shared life at 12 rue Cortot; from the left: Suzanne Valadon, André Utter, Maurice Utrillo.
Dettaglio atelier Valadon
More or less the same corner where the former photo was taken.

Certainly more even-tempered than composer Erick Satie, who had been totally obsessed by her, and more interesting than Paul Mousis, the rich banker who had married her to offer her a comfortable bourgeois, but yet so boring, life, André Utter embodied the sensuality, the freedom, the energy Suzanne Valadon had always craved.

Le lancement du filet, Valadon
Le lancement du filet, 1914, one of Suzanne’s paintings for which handsome young André sat.

Having left her husband, Suzanne lived from 1909 to 1910 with Utter in the impasse Guelma. In the meantime, Maurice had found another friend, a thing as rare as dangerous in this case. This other cursed artist, as much stoned as he was clever, instantly clicked with the torments of Suzanne’s son, sync that, however, couldn’t improve the terrible habits of both of them: I’m talking about the sad Amedeo Modigliani.

Modigliani ritrae Suzanne
A portrait of Suzanne Valadon made by Amedeo Modigliani and  Modigliani himself, jamboree companion of Maurice Utrillo. André and Suzanne had often to retrieve and/or help them in the worst moment of their evenings…

In 1912 the lovely couple moved to 12 rue Cortot with poor Maurice, who was better to be kept under watch.

For about 14 years the house was a constant explosion of dinners, artistic debates, philosophical discussions and sadly not only that: the explosions also came from the terrible rage fits of Utrillo demanding drinks. When his fits passed, Suzanne and André’s began: he was still young, beautiful, but hurt by Maurice’s success, she was painfully aware of the weight of her years, but was ready to protect her son against anything and anyone. The couple, who got married in 1914, lived in rue Cortot until 1926 when they split.

Interno Casa Valadon
Suzanne Valadon’s house in rue Cortot
Atelier Valadon foto
Rue Cortot’s atelier, where the trio painted as seen from the inside gardens in a photo of the times.
Atelier Valadon oggi
L’atelier seen from the gardens today.

Even if their troubled love story ended, André and Suzanne never stopped seeing each other, or painting. After her death (1938), she never abandoned her atelier, Utter came back to live in rue Cortot, and melancholically stayed there until his own end, ten years later. Of the three members of the Infernal Trio, Maurice Utrillo will be, to everyone’s surprise, the last one to go.

André Utter nel giardino
André Utter in rue Cortot’s garden painted by Suzanne.
Giardino rue Cortot oggi
The same place today.
L'atelier di rue Cortot oggi interno
Rue Cortot’s atelier, today (inside).

(Here‘s the website of the Montmartre’s Museum in rue Cortot)