Maurice Cullen by Edmond Dyonnet
Newfoundland-born Maurice Cullen began his study of art in Montreal in the sculpture studio of Louis-Philipppe Hébert. In 1889, Cullen travelled to Paris to study at the École des beaux-arts, where he decided to shift his attention to painting. He soon turned his back on the academic tradition and embraced the colourful , light-filled and loosely pained style of the Impressionists. Returning to Montreal in 1885, Cullen continued to paint in an Impressionist style.
His talent in capturing the clarity of the light in a brilliant palette of complementary colours drew the praise of the art critic in Montreal’s Gazette when six of his works were exhibited, in the 1904 Royal Canadian Academy of Arts exhibition: “All show startling originality in composition, treatment and colour scheme. He is in no small degree a mood-painter”. Although the general public was slow to appreciate his sensitive and imaginative interpretations of the Canadian landscape, Cullen was greatly admired by contemporary artists. James Wilson Morrice, with whom Cullen had painted abroad and at home, insisted, “He is one artist who gets to the guts of things”. And for younger Montreal artists at the turn of the 20th century, he was, in the words of A.Y. Jackson, “a hero” for introducing them to “ the fresh and invigorating movements going on in the art circles of France”. From about 1908, Cullen painted numerous works of Montreal in winter.
“At some hour of the day”, observed Cullen, “the commonest subject is beautiful”.
Cullen made small oil sketches out-of-doors, even during snowstorms. Later, the sketches would be used as departure points for the larger works that he painted on canvas in the studio.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art form its beginnings to 2000, Firefly books, 2000