I am currently reading a great deal about Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955).
Utrillo was a self taught painter born in the Montmartre quarter of Paris. His mother was the artist Suzanne Valadon. She studied with Degas and Renoir and is said that she was never quite sure who was the father of Maurice. She finally attributed the paternity to a lesser known Spanish artist Miguel Utrillo though he probably wasn’t the father either.
Maurice was a troubled soul his entire life and had a strong predilection for drink. In later life he became very religious and married an older woman after his mother died and he himself was 52. His mother took care of him for many years and after her death he sought a mother figure again in his older wife Lucy Valore.
Utrillo’s paintings are many and mostly street scenes of Montmartre. After 1910, his work which had previously been derided as “primitive” attracted critical attention. In 1928 the French government awarded him the Cross of the Legion d’honneur.
Until the end of his life however, he was interned in mental asylums repeatedly.
These days his paintings are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
C’est la vie.
I am currently reading Lipatti by Dragos Tanasescu and Grigore Bargauanu. It is the only English biography based on the life of Romanian pianist and composer Dinu Lipatti and it has long been out of print. I managed to find a used library copy for sale at Amazon.
Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) died at the tragically early age of 33 from Hodgkins Lymphoma. That disease was not as treatable in those days as it is now.
Though Lipatti is mainly known among classical pianists for a handful of great records like his recording of Ravel’s Alborado del gracioso and the album of the complete Chopin Waltzes he put together the summer before he passed on. His last concert was also recorded only three months before his death when he was so weak he could barely stand. That recording is also considered a “classic” it is called The Besancon Recital (1950).
He is much less known as a composer but recently the people who manage dinulipatti.com located some radio transcription recordings from the late 1940’s. Now it is possible to hear Lipatti’s compositions such as Concertino in Classical Style, Symphonie concertante, Les Tziagnes and Romanian dances. These recording (though rather rough considering the source) are great to hear because Lipatti himself plays the piano parts on many. They can be found at iTunes and on Youtube.
He truly was one of the last virtuoso pianist/composers. Prokofiev, who died three years later, was probably the very last. His music both as a performer and composer is well worth hearing.