Born in Paris, March 13, 1858, Maximilien Luce was raised in the working-class surroundings of Montparnasse. Luce held an interest in the daily routines and labors of the common people that surrounded him; this is shown in much of his art. Luce apprenticed with wood-engraver Henri Théophile Hildebrand before working under wood-engraver Eugène Froment in 1876. He assisted Froment in the production of engravings that were used in a variety of publications such as L’Illustration and The Graphic. During this time, Luce sporadically attended classes at the Académie Suisse.
Revolutionary in both his art and his politics, Maximilien Luce was a familiar figure in the popular cafés of late 19th century Paris. Luce studied under Carolus-Duran and then perfected his drawing skills at the Ecole de dessin des Gobelins. But by far, the most influential of Luce’s mentors was Camille Pissarro. Pissarro not only taught Luce the techniques of landscape painting but also shared with the budding artist his love of nature and his sincere friendship. The versatile Luce, like many of his contemporaries, experimented with several of the modern painting techniques and schools developing in France throughout his career. Luce created an oeuvre of astounding diversity that reflects this period of stylistic profundity.
Luce’s affiliation with Pissarro led to a shared fascination with the Divisionist techniques and the scientific analyses of Georges Seurat. In 1887 Luce exhibited, along with Seurat, at the Salon des Indépendants with Neo-Impressionist paintings and founded l’Ecole des Neo-Impressionistes with Paul Signac. Typical of the Pointillists, Luce also preferred the depiction of the working class rather than the elegant bourgeoisie.
At the turn of the century, Maximilien Luce grew weary of Pointillism and reverted back to the Impressionist style as in Route de Campagne a Moulineaux, painted in 1905, which also typifies his penchant for rural life. In addition, it reveals the influence of the newly debuted Fauves, yet another growing artistic movement headed by Henri Matisse whereby non-naturalistic colors were used to evoke emotional response. The Fauves dominated the Salon d’Automne in 1905.
While working in Froment’s studio, Luce became acquainted with artists Léo Gausson and Emile-Gustave Péduzzi. With these two artists, Luce began painting landscape subjects in and around Lagny-sur-Marne. In 1888, Maximilien Luce entered the Société des “Indépendants,” and became a constant part of the group’s exhibitions. Luce’s landscapes seem to be the most dominant part of his work. However, the figures in his work differentiate him from the other neo-impressionistic painters.
Maximilien Luce was a relentless worker that produced a considerable number of paintings. Luce died in his hometown of Paris, February 6, 1941.