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 Maurice Galbraith Cullen  (1866 - 1934)

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Lived/Active: Quebec/Newfoundland and Labrador / Canada/France      Known for: impressionist landscape, marine, genre and portrait painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Maurice Galbraith Cullen was a prominent painter and an influential educator who was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland (1).  His family moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1870, and he lived there, except for the period in Paris (1888 - 1895) and when he returned to Newfoundland (1910 - 1911), for most of the rest of his life.  He died at his cottage in Chambly, Quebec, about 30 miles from downtown Montreal.
His mediums were oil, watercolour, pen and ink, pastel and mixed mediums.  His subjects are landscape, coastal scenes, urban scenes, genre, portraits and (during World War I ) war.  The locations of the painting subjects include the Rocky Mountains, Newfoundland, North Africa, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.  However his most famous subject is Quebec in winter, its urban streets, its rivers, its countryside.  His style is Impressionist.  He is also known for his plein-air painting, even in extreme weather conditions.  As an Impressionist, he especially focused on the relationship of colours to light and atmospheric effects, especially, pertaining to snow and sky. 

Quote: “At some hour of the day the commonest subject is beautiful.” – Maurice Cullen.
In Montreal (1884 - 1987) he studied sculpture under Louis Philippe Hebert (see AskART) and at the Institute Nationale des Beaux-Arts with Abbe Joseph Chabert (1832 - 1894).  In Paris (1888 - 1892)  he studied at the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Jean-Leon Gerome (see AskART), Jules-Elie Delaunay  (see AskART), and Alfred Philippe Roll (see AskART); at the Acadamie Colarossi under Gustave Courtois (see AskART) and Jean André Rixens (see AskART); and at the Académie Julian (Rodolpe Julian 1839 - 1907).  The works of the French Impressionists and particularly Monet are his stated and obvious influences.  William Blair Bruce (see AskART), another Canadian living and working in France, was a friend and must have also been an influence and an example.
His travels, in addition to living in Paris from 1888 to 1895, include a return trip to Europe (1900 - 1902) when he also visited North Africa.  All his foreign travels resulted in paintings, some of the locations of which are Venice, Florence, Tangiers, El Kantra, Tunis, Giverny, Pont-Aven, Le Pouldu and Moret.
Cullen taught sketching classes at the Art Association of Montreal (2) from 1911 to 1924. Some of his students became Canada’s most prominent artists.  They included Edwin Holgate, Mabel Lockerby, Anne Savage, Kathleen Morris, Sarah Robertson and Prudence Heward (see all in AskART).
His associates include James Wilson Morrice, William Brymner, Suzor-Cote, Edmund Dyonnet, Horatio Walker, Joseph-Charles Franchere, Joseph Saint-Charles, Fritz Thaulow, Charles Fromuth, Auguste Rodin, James McNeill Whistler, William Bouguereau and Frederick Simpson Coburn (see all in AskART).  Robert Pilot is a stepson (see AskART).
In 1895, he was the first Canadian elected associate of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts, France.  In 1899, he was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and in 1907 a full member.  He was also a member of the Montreal Pen and Pencil Club (1896).  In 1918, he was appointed an Official War Artist with the rank of captain, serving in France, Belgium and England.
He exhibited at the Paris Salon (1894, 95, 01, 02 and 03), with the Toronto Art Club (1908 - 1915), with the RCA (1893 – 1934) and the Art Association of Montreal (1897 - 1932). Retrospectives of his work were done by l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal in 1913, the Arts Club of Montreal in 1922, and in 1934 by his dealer Watson Galleries in Montreal.  Since his death his works have been continuously and widely exhibited in Canada, this includes major retrospectives by the National Gallery of Canada in 1956 and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario) in 1983.  There were retrospectives by the Kitchner - Waterloo Art Gallery (Ontario) in 1965 and at Galerie Walter Klinkhoff (Montreal) in 1974 and 2000.  His works were also included in the "Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art" exhibition at the National Gallery in 1967,  in the "Canadian Landscape Painting 1630 - 1930" exhibition which toured the U.S.A. in 1973 and in the “Landscape Painting in Quebec 1800 – 1940” exhibition at the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City) in 1979.
His work is avidly collected (3) and is in many private and public collections.  Some of the public collections are the McMichael Canadian Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the Museum of Civilization (Hull, Quebec), the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City) and the McCord Museum (Montreal). The National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa) has 22 of his works.
His awards include the Jesse Dow Prize from the Art Association of Montreal in 1911 and 1913.

(1) At the time Newfoundland was a Dominion of the United Kingdom. It joined Canada in 1949.                                    
(2) After 1948 it became the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
(3) In 2005 his 24” X 32” painting tilted “The Bird Shop, St. Lawrence Street” sold at auction for $1.3 Million, placing him at number 6 ( the work is number 14) on the list of Canadian artists with the highest prices at auction. Source “Canadian Art Sales Index - 2009 Edition”, Westbridge Publications Ltd.
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

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