Fr Cn De Es Pt It

XIII - Modi et Utrillo

Painting by Jean-Marc Guéroux

Elisa was convinced that she had come face to face with the reincarnation of two of her favourite painters: Modigliani and Utrillo. The two boys were inseparable and always hung out at the Place Jean-Baptiste Clément, where Modigliani lived his last life at No. 6, and at 12 Rue Cortot, the former home of Utrillo and his mother Suzanne Valladon.

Elisa didn’t really know them, but they ran into each other so often when Elisa left her home that the boys had become a part of her life. Utrillo was a painter in this life, as in his past life, and loved drinking more than in any of his lives. Utrillo’s heart was too big for this small world. Utrillo went from one bar to the next with his loyal friend Modi, a beautiful boy with curly hair. When Elisa knew they were in the small square in front of her home, she would open her windows and sing “Vissi d’Arte” by Puccini or “Du holde Kunst” by Schubert to them. She tried to help them find their past memories. She urged Utrillo to put his tourist portraits aside and paint a perspective from the Rue St. Rustique of the Sacré Coeur cathedral once more. She encouraged Modi to make oil portraits, which he did like no one else.

Elisa, who had a weakness for settings in gradations of white, was enchanted by the whites of Utrillo’s creations. He painted the gypsum of the Montmartre quarries on the monuments, the limestone, the plaster of Paris, the famous “Parisian white”. Utrillo was born in Montmartre and would always love the Butte. The white of the quarries is present in all of his work, even on paintings of other neighbourhoods of Paris, where the gypsum of Montmartre was used in the constructions.

Utrillo called her “my princess”. Even at times when he was so drunk that he could barely form words, or when Elisa thought he was half-unconscious, he would exclaim “my princess” upon seeing her and his face would suddenly light up. Elisa saw nothing but greatness in him and showered him with intense admiration and an encouraging smile. Paint, she prayed silently, start working again, Utrillo. Don’t be taken in by the shrinks. Paul Mousis (Utrillo’s stepfather) should never have put you away… You’re not crazy. You’re a visionary.

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