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Maurice Cullen

The Water Carriers


Maurice Cullen
Saint John's, Newfoundland, 1866 – Chambly, Quebec, 1934


The Water Carriers




Oil on canvas


62.5 x 92.5 cm


Gift of the Club Saint-Denis of Montreal (gift of Joseph Simard), inv. 2016.167


Quebec and Canadian Art

Cullen was admitted to the École nationale des Beaux-arts in Paris in 1888, where he first studied with Gérôme and then with Delaunay. He also attended the Julian and Colarossi academies. In 1895, he was the first Canadian artist to become an associate member of the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where his work had débuted the year before; that same year, the French State bought one of his paintings. He soon dedicated himself fully to landscape painting, working from nature in Moret, Giverny and Pouldu. At Grez, near Giverny, during a stay with Canadian artist William Blair Bruce and his Swedish-born wife, he came into contact with the Swedish landscape artists who were disciples of Impressionism.

Back in Canada, Cullen adapted what he had learned from Impressionism to local subjects, which enabled him to explore the landscape’s singular light effects and atmospheric conditions, particularly in winter. For Cullen, “snow borrows the colours of the sky and sun. It is blue, it is mauve, it is grey, even black, but never entirely white.”

This painting was first exhibited at the Salon of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts held at the Art Gallery of the Art Association of Montreal in the spring of 1907. A typical example of Cullen’s work, the painting would be shown almost a dozen times in the following three years in exhibitions held in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto, as well as at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and at the Festival of Empire held at London’s Crystal Palace.

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