Utrillo was born in Paris as the biological son of artist Suzanne Valadon and the legal son of Miguel Utrillo. Although he carried the name of his father, Utrillo’s parents were never married, and he was raised solely by his mother. His was a tumultuous childhood and at the young age of 17, he entered a rehabilitation program for the first of many treatments for alcohol addiction. It was after his first such convalescence that his mother began to teach him to paint and draw. Such instruction from his mother was the extent of his training.
Although Utrillo's work progressed through many distinct phases, each contained his simultaneous ascending and descending perspective and his experimental use of color and texture. Beginning with dark, somber tones in his early work, Utrillo moved towards white, heavily textured surfaces and then onto a series of boldly colored graphic village scenes based on popular postcards. He continued to use bold colors in his later works, while adding fragmented surfaces and images.
It was the “postcard series” that earned Utrillo his greatest notoriety. While the public embraced these paintings, some critics argued that all he had done was copy existing images could therefore no longer be considered a professional artist. Utrillo's mother, in her typically outspoken and protective fashion, addressed his accusers with these words: “My son produced masterpieces by inspiring himself from postcards; others think they produce masterpieces, but all they do is postcards.”
Utrillo's work can be seen in museums around the world.