Maurice Cullen R.C.A.

Early March on the Cache River

30x40 in.
$38,000 Cdn.

Watson Art Galleries, Montreal;
Private collection;
Sale of Joyner Fine Art, November 26, 2012, lot 82;
Private collection, Toronto

11th Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Pastels by Maurice Cullen, RCA, Watson Art Galleries, Montreal, 14 – 24 January, 1933 (titled the Cache River in Early March)

William R. Watson, Retrospective: Recollections of a Montreal Art Dealer, Toronto, 1974, chapter 4: Maurice Cullen, pages 30-39;
Sylvia Antoniou, Maurice Cullen, Kingston, 1982

“Of all the artists I came to know, none was closer to me than Maurice Cullen.” Art Dealer William Watson wrote of his friendship with the artist, “… I think that I would describe him in a transcendental-pantheist; he would often admit to me how profound and all embracing this love of nature was. ‘One justification for living,’ he would say, ‘is the understanding and love of beauty‘. Perhaps, however, I came to understand him even better through his art.”

Cullen was a keen observer and lover of nature, particularly that of the Laurentians and landscape of Quebec. He owned a small cabin, described as a shack by Watson, near Lac Tremblant and spent months at a time there, capturing the landscape in his signature impressionist style. Watson sometimes joined the artist on sketching trips, and recollects using Norwegian skis to cut through the snowy terrain of the Laurentians, with Cullen in snowshoes, which he often used to reach the serene winter landscapes of his favour. Pastels in particular, which we see used beautifully in Early March, were of interest to Cullen because of their flexibility. He made his own colours, “from earths and other pigments, which he blended to achieve the most subtle tones”. The gently lit scene that he captures in Early March is a sublime example of his masterful use of the medium.

Maurice Galbraith Cullen, painter (b at St John’s 6 June 1866; d at Chambly, Qué 28 Mar 1934). Cullen moved to Montréal with his family in 1870. There he began his art training as a sculptor at the Conseil des arts et manufactures and with sculptor Louis-Philippe HÉBERT. Like other…