Maxime Emile Maufra

French, 1861-1918 Biography

Maxime Maufra was born in Nantes, France in 1861. With the encouragement of two local painters Alfred LeDuc and Charles LeRoux Maufra began to paint at the age of eighteen. He already had developed a considerable talent for both drawing and sketching when he entered the local lycée in Nantes. In 1881 Maufra was sent by his parents to Liverpool, England to learn English and to improve his business skills. During his stay Maufra was exposed to the bright and luminous paintings of the English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. The experience of these dazzling pictures influenced Maufra to turn away from the traditional mode of landscape painting and to move more towards the plein air painting of the Impressionists. When Maufra returned to France in 1883, he devoted himself to painting from nature along the banks of the Loire River. In 1886 the Impressionist painter John Flornoy organized a ground-breaking exhibition of avant-garde pictures which numbered nearly two thousand and which included the works of Maufra, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissaro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The same year Maufra had his debut among the French artists at the Paris Salon. Two of his oil paintings executed in 1885 by Maufra were favorably reviewed in the journal La France by Octave Mirbeau, who recognized Maufra’s unique style of painting. In November of 1893 Paul Gauguin visited Maufra in Pont Aven and encouraged him to continue to paint in accordance with his own personal interpretation of Synthetism. Synthetism differed from the earlier Impressionism because it emphasized two dimensional flat patterns. This meeting with Gauguin marked the beginning of a six year period during which time Maufra combined the technical and constructive aspects of Synthetism with a subject matter that was purely Impressionistic. In 1894 Maufra had his first solo exhibition at Le Barc de Boutteville in Paris, which was extremely successful. Beginning in 1896 the composition of Maufra’s landscapes became more detailed, accurate and truer to nature. Maufra ultimately sought to portray not the instant or the impression of a single moment or effect but rather a condensation and accumulation of all that combined to produce the effect. Such an approach differentiated Maufra from many of his contemporaries. His concern was for one image rather than a series of impressions. Maxime Maufra was singularly admired for his fierce independence and for the uniqueness of his painting style.


Oil on canvas
26 x 32 inches
34 ¾ x 41 inches framed
Signed and dated lower right: Maufra 1900
Durand-Ruel label and photo number 3035 on reverse stretcher
Stock Durand-Ruel Paris 5869 and Durand-Ruel New York 2691
Executed 1900

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Madame Caroline Durand-Ruel Godfrey, dated 23 May 2014, and is to be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently in preparation.

Durand-Ruel Paris, 1900
Durand-Ruel and Sons, New York, 1901
M.V. Margoulies, 1944
Earl T Risser, New York
Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., Earl T. Risser Collection Sale, December 11, 1963, Lot 55
Private Collection, New York

Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Seattle, Washington, 1909, No. 308
Exhibition of Paintings by Maxime Maufra, Durand-Ruel, New York, 2-31 December 1940

Maufra resided in Monmartre in 1892, the first painter to take up residence in the Bateau-Lavoir, the famous meeting place for outstanding early 20th-century artists such as Pablo Picasso as well as writers, theater people, and art dealers. Maufra’s first solo exhibition at Le Barc de Toutteville in 1894 introduced him to the iconic art dealer Durand-Ruel, who would exhibit our La Ville Féerique (Magic City) at the Exposition Universelle in 1900, the year the picture was executed, and later at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington, in 1909. This painting displays a panorama of buildings surrounding the Eiffel Tower as well as the encircling Seine River with the Pont d’Ilena in the distance, one of many iconic French bridges. The Pont d’Ilena links the Eiffel Tower constructed in 1889 as the gateway to the World’s Fair with the Trocadero district. The bridge was built on the orders of Napoleon to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Jena in 1807. Maufra’s particular strength as an artist lay in the fact that he had a style all his own. His personal style of Impressionism, a compromise between the direct observation of nature and the purely decorative and two-dimensional flat patterns of Synthetism, is on display in La Ville Féerique. This painting displays both Maufra’s individualism and his love for the sea. His brilliantly colored depiction of the Seine consumes almost half of the canvas, perfecting balancing the fiery morning sky Maufra loved the sea and as Arsene Alexandre explains in his Maxime Maufra, peintre marin et rustique: “ was the sea with its perpetual soft and tumultuous currents, its celebrations and tragedies that dominated his art. Even in many of his paintings in which the sea is not represented, one can still somehow feel it, like an eternal neighbor, constantly acting upon one’s life.” The consummate and accomplished manner of Maufra’s brushwork as well as the intensity of his color palette sets this ruggedly individualistic artist apart from his contemporaries and establishes him as an independent artist, not belonging to any one particularly art movement , but blazing his own exclusive path. It is interesting to note that Maufra painted a similar view of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River the same year entitled L’Exposition sur La Seine which sold on November 30, 1988 as Lot 135 in Sotheby’s London sale of Impressionist and Modern Paintings and Sculpture.