L’Execution de Varlin
by Maximilien Luce


Country of origin: France

Medium: Oil on paper laid on canvas

Signed: Signed lower left

Dated: c. 1910

Size: 25.00" x 17.00" (63.5cm x 43.2cm)

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Artist biography

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Maximilien Luce Paintings

Maximilien Luce began an apprenticeship with the wood engraver Henri Théophile Hildibrand in 1872, and simultaneously studied drawing at evening class. In 1876, having qualified as an engraver, he joined a workshop where illustrations were engraved for many French magazines and some foreign periodicals. He went to London in 1877, where he sold some drawings to the magazine Graphic. When he returned to Paris he was called for national service in 1879, first in Brittany, and later in Paris, where he was able to pursue his career as an engraver. During his time in the army he studied under Carolus Duran, probably at the Swiss academy, and worked at the École de Dessin in Les Gobelins. He was mostly self-taught from his observations of nature, and also received guidance from his friend Camille Pissarro. In 1887 he joined the Société des Artistes Indépendants and took part in their exhibitions, which were avant-garde at the time. He also exhibited with the Groupe des Vingt in Brussels in 1889 and 1892.

In his youth, the events of the Paris Commune had made an impression on him and he worked on anarchist publications such as Le Père Peinard, founded in 1889, whose cover he designed, La Feuille by Zo d'Axa, and Le Chambard by Gérault-Richard. He also worked on L'Assiette au beurre, Les Hommes d'aujourd'hui, L'Illustration, La Révolte, Les Temps nouveaux.

In 1894 he was implicated in the 'Procès des Trente' (Trial of the Thirty), which earned him a prison sentence. These events inspired a collection of lithographs entitled Mazas. He then took refuge in Charleroi in Belgium. From 1920 he was active in the area around Rolleboise.

He became president of the Société des Artistes Indépendants, as successor to his friend Signac after his death in 1935. He renounced his presidency at the beginning of the German occupation as a protest against Jewish artists being forbidden to exhibit. He corresponded with many other painters, including Charles Angrand, Georges Seurat, Théo Van Rysselberghe and his friend Louis Valtat.

With Seurat and Signac he was one of the founders of the Neo-Impressionist school, which was based on the scientific study of light and the analysis of the decomposition of colours. As such he used the technique known as Divisionism or Pointillism, using individual points of colour to interpret the complexity of the composition of the colours, while preserving their vibrancy and defining the light and shadow of the elements in the picture. During his stay in Belgium he played a part in establishing Neo-Impressionism outside France. For many years he was a strict Pointillist, but he then adopted a more relaxed, more fluid technique, which can be seen in his landscapes in Rolleboise, departing from the rigour of Neo-Impressionism and returning to a late Impressionist style.

The majority of his works are landscapes, mainly of France. He painted a smaller number of urban landscapes, often of working class districts, and often painted at night, providing a snapshot of the world of work at that time. His figures set him apart from other Neo-Impressionists, as he genuinely wanted to share the cares and troubles of the people, and showed this in the attitudes of the road workers, the dockers and the builders going about their daily work.

Solo exhibitions and retrospectives of his work include: 1966, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi; 1977, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi; 1983, Musée Marmottan, Paris; 1987, Musée Pissarro, Pontoise; 1995, Maximilien Luce (1858-1941): Anarchist Painter ( Maximilien Luce (1858-1941): peintre anarchiste), Charleroi; 2000, Maximilien Luce. Painting the Human Condition ( Maximilien Luce. Peindre la condition humaine), Musée de l'Hôtel-Dieu, Mantes-la-Jolie.

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Fécamp (Mus. des Arts et de l'Enfance): The Maas in Rotterdam (1908, oil/card)
Geneva (Petit Palais): View of Paris from Montmartre (1887); Camaret-sur-Mer (1894)
Otterlo (Kröller-Müller Mus.): View of Montmartre (1887)
Paris (MNAM-CCI): Portrait of the Painter H.- E. Cross; The Seine at Rolleboise
Paris (Mus. d'Orsay): Studies for Factories near Charleroi
St-Tropez (Mus. de l'Annonciade): Coast near the Citadelle, St Tropez

Maximilien Luce Paintings

Previously Sold Artworks