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Police photo of Maximilien Luce, French anarchiste &  famous painter
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Maximilien Luce (1858-1941)

French artist, a painter, engraver, & anarchist.
Born in Paris March 13, 1858.

Maximilien LUCE - 1858 / 1941

Luce was with Seurat & Signac one of the founders of the Neo-impressionist School based on the scientific study of light & the analysis of prismatic effect of colours. He was also a great friend of Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat, Theo Van Rysselberghe & Louis Valtat. For a number of years he was strictly "pointillist" adopting later a looser technique. Landscapes & urban scenes depicting the world of the working class (builders, dockers, laborers, fishermen) in the 1930s occupy a predominant place in his work.

Museums: Genève - Saint-Tropez - Paris - Musée national d'Art Moderne - Musée d'Orsay

Exhibitions: "Groupe des Vingts" Bruxelles Société des Artistes Indépendants

Provenance: Bouin Luce's former collection - Catalogue de l'oeuvre peint (Vol. II) Edit. JBL 1986 Nr 1845 page 444

Bibliography: Benezit 1999 edition - G. Schurr - La Normandie vue par les Peintres La Provence vue par les Peintres

A reader of Jean Grave's "La révolte", & eventually his friend. In 1887, Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat & Paul Signac inducted him into their group of neo-impressionists. Luce produced many drawings for libertarian newspapers such as "Le père Peinard", "La révolte", "L'en dehors".

In 1894, during the repression following the attacks of Ravachol, Valliant & others, Luce was imprisoned, indicted as a "dangerous anarchist" whose drawings were judged "inciting people to revolt". Luce produced a series of lithographs based on this prison experience, accompanied with text by Jules Valles.

After his release he collaborated on the review "Les temps nouveaux". Became President of the Society of Independent Artists in 1935, & signed a petition calling for antifascist fighters & resigned his post in 1940 in protest against racial laws enacted by the Vichy regime, which barred Jewish artists from all official groupings.

He produced numerous works as well as quantities of drawings for newspapers and engravings during his career and corresponded frequently with fellow Neo-Impressionist artists like Seurat, Charles Angrand, Van Rysselberghe and Louis Valtat. Luce left many thematic works involving the Paris Commune, the daily life of the common worker & peasant, etc.

Maximilien Luce first worked in 1872 as an apprentice in the engraving workshop of Hildebrans and also followed night courses to study painting. He became a qualified engraver in 1876 and left for London with Froment, his employer, the following year.

Back in France in 1879, he was enlisted in the army but managed at the same time to study painting with Carolus Duran while Pissarro advised him much.

He became one of the co-founders of the Neo-Impressionist school with Signac and tried during several years to develop the technique aimed at applying dots on the canvas.

Luce adhered in 1887 to the Society of the «Independents» and took part regularly in the exhibitions of that group regarded as an avant-garde movement during the first decade of its existence.

He painted many landscapes as well as city scenes and, as a demonstration of his deep concern for the working-class, he depicted workers in various attitudes.

Painting by Maximilien Luce, French anarchiste &  famous painter

Luce was much marked by the «Commune» uprising and the repression that followed and worked willingly for several anarchist newspapers such as «Le Père Peinard» or «La Révolte». Involved in 1894 in the «Trial of the thirty» he was imprisoned for a while and then sought refuge in Charleroi, Belgium, where he promoted Neo-Impressionism.

His paintings of his "divisionist" period are now much sought while those painted after 1910 seem quite academic and less attractive.

Luce succeeded Signac as President of the Society of Independent Artists in 1935 but resigned his post in 1940 in protest against racial laws enacted by the Vichy regime, which barred Jewish artists from all official groupings.

He produced numerous works as well as quantities of drawings for newspapers and engravings during his career and corresponded frequently with fellow Neo-Impressionist artists like Seurat, Charles Angrand, Van Rysselberghe and Louis Valtat.

Maximilien Luce (French, 1858-1941)
A painter, lithographer and draftsman, Maximilien Luce was born in Paris on March 13th, 1858 and died in the same city on February 6th, 1941. As a youth he apprenticed to become an engraver and took evening courses to deepen his knowledge in the field. In 1876 he entered the shop of the engraver Eugène Froment (1844-1900), a graduate of the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, as a qualified craftsman. There, Luce worked on engraving, numerous illustrations for French newspapers as well as some for foreign periodicals.

In 1877 Luce left Paris with Froment and went to London. When he returned to France in 1879 he was called for military service, first in Brittany and then in Paris were he continued with his career as an engraver. It was during his military service that Luce met Charles Emile Carolus-Duran (1837-1917), the famous French painter and sculpture whose students included countless artists -- both French as well as foreign, John Singer Sargent (1856-1928) for example -- who would go on to carve their niche in art history. Luce entered Carolus-Duran’s studio, a move which not only gave him meticulous training as a draftsman, but introduced him to the leading painters of the time.

One such artist Maximilien Luce met was Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), with whom he became very good friends and who gave Luce much artistic advice. Along with Pissarro, Georges Seurat (1859-1891) and Paul Signac (1863-1935) Luce was one of the founders of the Neo-Impressionist School (i.e. the Pointillists). For many years Luce adhered to the Divisionist technique of color separation and theories of the scientists Michel Chevreul, Charles Henry and Ogden Rood.

In 1887, Luce joined the Société des Indépendants, after which time he consistently participated in the avant-garde group’s exhibitions. Though landscapes made up most of his oeuvre, Luce executed some marvelous paintings of people in the Pointillist style – an aspect of his style that differentiated him from many of his fellow Neo-Impressionists.

Luce was always very interested in the worries and pains of ordinary people and attempted to honestly transmit such human plight in his portrayal of lockers, masons and other laborers whose daily work he witnessed. In fact, in his youth, Luce had been quite struck by the notion of ‘the commune’ and he subscribed to Anarchist magazines such as La Revolte and L’assiette au beurre (literally translated as "The Plate Cooked in Butter") and was implicated in 1894 for politically incorrect behavior, for which he passed a stint in prison and subsequently recounted his adventures in his lithographic series Mazas.

Maximilien Luce was, for a period of time, a strict Pointillist. After 1920, however, when he began spending a large amount of time around Rolleboise, Luce started to paint in a freer manner. Concerned very little with accolades, he did, however, accept the position of President of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1935 subsequent to the death of Signac, a position from which he would resign as a statement against the society’s growing posture towards restricting Jewish artists from exhibiting.

Luce made a significant contribution towards exporting Neo-Impressionism and maintained strong ties with the Belgian Pointillist Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926). He has left us a sizable amount of work in various mediums, as he was an indefatigable artist. Maximilien Luce remains a very important figure in French Post-Impressionist Art, as a Pointillist and a social realist.

La Rue Mouffetard 1889-90
oil on canvas
31 5/8 x 25 3/16
His choice of subject suits the Neo-Impressionists' interest in contemporary urban life and his own deep concern for the working man. The rue Mouffetard is a busy artery of a working-class neighborhood, located, as the large sign suggests, near the Panthéon. In the same district were the offices of La Révolte, the anarchist publication to which Luce, an anarchist sympathizer, contributed illustrations.

This page created March 2002; updated March 2006

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