Price Realized: $
Date: 1924
Artist: Maurice Galbraith Cullen
Medium: oil on wood panel
Dimensions: 10.5 x 13.75 in. (26.7 x 34.9 cm)

signed lower right; signed, titled & dated verso
Provenance: Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal QC (inventory label verso – no. 1420); The Watson Art Galleries, Montreal QC (1925 exhibition label verso – no. 35)

Maurice Galbraith Cullen was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, moving with his family to Montreal as a young boy – it would be the city he would call home. At age fourteen, while working as a clerk, he began to study art at the Institut National des Beaux-Arts et Sciences, and privately with sculptor Louis-Philippe Hebert. In 1989, an inheritance from his mother allowed Cullen to moved to France to further his studies. He trained at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts and at the Academies Julian and Colarossi. He was quickly drawn to impressionism and decided to focus on painting. While in France, he met several fellow Canadian artists, including James Wilson Morrice and William Brymner, who became his sketching parthers. Cullen exhibited at the Paris Salon and become an associate of the Société Nationale des Beaux-arts, before returning to Montreal in 1895.

Although he exhibited regularly, his paintings did not sell well in Montreal during these early years. The art collectors of the time still preferred the somber 18th and 19th century works by Dutch and British artists. Things improved somewhat following his election into the Royal Canadian Academy (as an associate in 1899 and a full member in 1907). Cullen influenced many artists, teaching privately at his Beaver Hall Square studio, and at the Art Association of Montreal, where he taught outdoor studio classes every summer between 1911 and 1923. He also took his students on periodic sketching trips. Cullen was a regular contributor to exhibitions of the Royal Canadian Academy and the Art Association. It was through these exhibitions that he became known to the prominent Montreal art dealer William Watson, who beginning in 1923 held annual exhibitions of Cullen’s work. From this point on, Cullen concentrated on the Laurentian landscape.

Considered the father or Impressionism in Canada, Cullen bent the light filled, loosely painted French Impressonist techniques to accommodate the demands of the uniquely Canadian landscape and his own style. Cullen, who often painted outdoors, was a careful observer of nature, continually watching the ice and snow on the Laurentian rivers, and noting the transient effects of time of day, weather and even season. It is in these Laurentian winter scenes that we see Cullen’s mastery of the effects of light upon snow; his use of complementary colour and texture; his ability to capture atmosphere.

In an early exhibition publication, William Watson says of Cullen’s work:

“In deep winter under a canopy of snow, where the woods are a silhouette of black against a shimmer of radiant light, Cullen paints his poem to the glory of the Laurentian winter. In his pictures one feels the very mood of hushed solitude, the exquisite silence of the snow-enshrouded world.”

LOT: 74

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