Utrillo was born in Paris, the son of the artist Suzanne Valadon (who was also a model, appearing in works by Renoir and Degas among others). He adopted the surname of his stepfather Miguel Utrillo, a Spanish writer, when signing his work, but would always add a 'V' to the end of his signature. Utrillo was an alcoholic from an early age, and his mother encouraged him to paint as a remedial activity. He was a self-taught artist and was not associated with any of the avant garde movements of the period. He was naturally drawn to showing the solitude and melancholy of the urban scenes he painted.