Maurice Galbraith Cullen is a Canadian painter born in St. John’s (Newfoundland) on June 6, 1866 and he died in Chambly (Québec) on March 28, 1934. He moved to Montreal with his family in 1870 and started painting with abbé Chabert at the Institut national des beaux-arts de Montréal and sculpting with Louis-Philippe Hébert. Then, following the example of many artists of his generation, Cullen left for Paris in 1888 to take classes at the Académie Julian, the Académie Colarossi as well as the École des beaux-arts. He learned the basics of traditional French painting and discovered the Impressionists with whom he rapidly identified, adopting their use of light and colours in his own paintings. During his stay in Paris, he became acquainted with famous painters such as Monet and Sisley and was friends with Canadian painters, namely William Brymner, Edmund Morris and William Blair Bruce. In spite of a notable success in France where he was the first Canadian to be elected associate of the Société nationale des beaux-arts, Cullen decided to return to Canada in 1895. He nevertheless continued his search on light, especially the light of Canadian winters in dry weather which allows bright colours. Cullen painted almost everywhere in Canada; his main subjects were winter storms, changing views of foggy ports, ice removal in Montreal, lush summers and freezing winters of Québec City. With William Blair Bruce, he was one of the first Canadian artists to apply and adapt the French impressionist principles to Canadian landscapes.
Cullen joined several art associations like the Pen & Pencil Club, the Canadian Art Club and the Arts Club. From 1911 to 1923, he taught at the Art Association of Montreal and in 1918, he was promoted war artist. A defining figure of Canadian art, he was elected associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1899 and won the Jessie Dow Award of the Art Association of Montreal in 1911 and 1913. Throughout his career, Cullen’s work was regularly exhibited and some of his paintings are considered Canadian masterpieces.
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