Maximilien Luce

French, 1858-1941 Biography

A painter, lithographer and draftsman, Maximilien Luce was born on March 13th, 1858 to working class parents in the Montparnasse section of Paris. As a youth he apprenticed to the wood engravers Henri Théophile Hildebrand (b. 1824) Eugène Froment (1844-1900).

In Paris Luce continued with his career as an engraver and enrolled in the Academy des Beaux-Arts to study painting. Luce next entered the studio of Carolus-Duran (1837-1917), a decision which not only gave him meticulous training as a draftsman, but which also introduced him to many of the leading painters of the day. Luce then perfected his drawing skills at the Ecole de Dessin des Gobelins. In 1887 Luce joined the Société des Indépendants, after which time he consistently participated in the avant-garde group’s exhibitions for the remainder of his life.

By far the most influential of Luce's mentors at this time was Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) with whom Luce became very good friends and who gave Luce much invaluable artistic advice. The versatile Luce, like many of his contemporaries at the time such as Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Paul Signat (1863-1935), experimented throughout his career with several of the modern painting techniques and schools developing in France. Luce was one of the founders of the Neo-Impressionist School which applied scientific optical principles of light and color to create strictly formalized compositions in contrast to the adherents of Impressionism, who had spontaneously recorded nature in terms of the effects of color and light.

During his lifetime Luce created paintings in the Pointillist style. His ability to draw figures so expertly differentiated him from many of his fellow Neo-Impressionists. While Luce remained for a period of time a strict Pointillist, after 1920 when he began spending a large amount of time around Rolleboise, Luce started to paint in a freer manner. It was without doubt this Post-Impressionist technique which he used in these later works that showed his art to its best effect.

Maximilien Luce died on February 6th, 1941 in Paris, the city where he was born. He left a sizable number of works in various mediums (4,000 paintings and nearly 3,000 drawings, lithographs, etchings and wood engravings), as he was an indefatigable artist. Maximilien Luce is remembered best as a French Post-Impressionist painter, although he is also known as a Pointillist and a Social Realist.

Les régates au Tréport

Oil on panel
12 ⅝ x 16 ⅛ inches
19 ¼ x 23 ⅛ inches framed
Signed lower right: Luce
Signed and titled on reverse: Luce / le Tréport
Executed circa 1935

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by Denise Bazetoux, dated 24 September 2006.

In the painting Les Régates au Tréport Maximilien Luce depicts one of his signature seaside landscapes. In this light hearted view of the harbor at Tréport, a popular seaside resort and vacation spot for Parisians in Normandy at the mouth of the Bresle River, Luce depicts the leisure sport of a summer sailboat regatta. A broken and uneven line of pleasure sailboats ply the wind against the slightly choppy waters of this harbor town abutting the English Channel before the furthest boat reduced to just a small vertical disappears against the horizon. The rhythm of floating white and violet clouds drawn by rapidly applied short brushstrokes and interrupted only by a few minimal breaks of brilliant blue patches of sky creates an uncertain atmosphere of flat light. This movement in the sky is echoed in the wind whipped white-capped waves that cut through Luce’s signature blue, violet and green waters. There is a deliberate sparseness of composition in the painting. Luce has applied his own vernacular to the formality of the Pointillists in this seascape painted in the twilight of his career. His color palette still retains some of the lightness of the Impressionists but there is no doubt that Luce paints this picture with his own distinct style that is devoid of any artifice or convention, a newly found freedom that expresses his own unique vision.