19 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by chels_a_bels

Urban Archeologist: Other People's Mail

Greg uncovers the letter of a famous artist... almost.

Urban Archeologist: Other People's Mail Urban Archeologist: Other People's Mail Urban Archeologist: Other People's Mail Urban Archeologist: Other People's Mail


Are you sure you don't want to try Urban Archeology as a hobby? I know some of you already do, but for those of you who don't... Never mind, I'm OK having all this fun to myself.

Three weeks ago, I was looking for a dig and found an estate sale listed in Ridgefield. Many of the sales I prowl there are managed by a service call Recycle Again. Run by two nice ladies who always greet me in a friendly way (and usually dote over my daughter), they hold a good sale with fair pricing. The layout at each sale, though organized still permits digging.

The details of this estate were scarce, but the property had once been a working diary farm, which was converted to a very large and open living space. This meant there was room after room to explore. The owners, one or more of whom had been antique collectors, also had an extensive book collection.

You can tell a lot about a person (or persons) by the books they accumulate. In this case there was a lot of art and architecture appreciation going on here. My lack of education in both these area didn't leave my hopes artificially elevated, but I can usually find something good in anything. I managed to re-affirm this after I plucked a book off the dark and dusty shelves titled simply “Utrillo.”

Maurice Utrillo ( according to Wikipedia) was a troubled youth who was guided to be a painter by his mother Suzanne Valedon (also a famous painter) as a form of therapy. It turned out that he was gifted and eventually became a well respected artist recognized by the French government, though the aim of the therapy was never fully realized. His work consisted of mainly urban settings from the town he grew up in Montmartre, France.

Finger painting my way through many books that day, it was in his book that a sheet of paper revealed itself to me. I found it fascinating that one gallery owner would contact another just ask if the painting had been sold by them and when it was painted. More amazing is how the French gallery owner travels to the painter's home to show him this very image (included with the letter, above) for verification.

Not having known who Utrillo was before this sale, I am honored now to see and appreciate his work and be the owner of a photograph that he may well have held in his hands. Another interesting point is that this correspondence all took place only eight months before Utrillo died in 1955. I just can't feel guilty for reading other people's mail.

Ad men of the 1930s were really bossing women around! Take a look at the blog to see several examples of this good natured abuse.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

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