Artist Biography

Maurice Galbraith Cullen, a Canadian landscape painter, was born in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, in 1866. Cullen moved to Montreal with his family as a young child, where he began training as a sculptor at the Conseil des arts et manufactures, under Louis-Philippe Hebert. In 1889, Cullen moved to Paris, France, where he studied painting at Ecole des Beaux-arts. In Paris, he became familiar with the French Impressionists, whose work was considered revolutionary at the time. He adopted their use of light and colour in his own paintings.

In 1895, Cullen returned to Montreal and introduced fellow Canadian artists William Brymner and James Morris to the Impressionist approach. Through their exhibitions and teachings, these three artists made Impressionist-style painting of Canadian scenery popular. In time, Cullen became famous for his Impressionist paintings of the cityscapes of Montreal, especially night scenes with glistening lights. He also became one of Canada’s great painters of snow.

In 1918, Cullen was appointed by the Canadian War Memorials Fund to depict Canadian experiences in World War I. His dark paintings show that the artist struggled with the depressing subject matter. After the war, Cullen continued to paint in his Impressionist style.

Maurice Cullen was recognized and celebrated throughout his career. In 1895, he was the first Canadian to be elected member of Société nationale des Beaux-arts, Paris. In 1899, he was elected associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. In 1911 and 1913, he was awarded the Jessie Dow Prize from the Art Association of Montreal. In 1912, he was elected first vice-president of the Arts Club, Montreal.

Maurice Cullen died in 1934 in Chambly, Québec.