BlogMay 19, 2010

Maurice Cullen of Montreal Harbour is a Jewel

Finest work by the iconic impressionist currently on the market

This jewel-like painting serves as testimony to Maurice Cullen's admiration for the style of the French Impressionists whose painting he had studied while in France for the greater part from the end of 1888 until the early summer of 1895 and then back again for a few years from 1900. The "luscious" impasto and symphony of brushwork along with the particularly important subject matter representing the Port of Montreal make it impossible to date whether immediately prior to his second trip abroad or conceivably immediately upon his return. The painting could be of 1899, the same year he painted Craig Street at Night or after 1903 , when he returned to a studio only a couple of doors up the Street on Francis Xavier where he had painted in 1898 and 1899 and literally a few hundred yards from the Port of Montreal.


Compositionally and with his painterly treatment of the sky, I cannot resist claiming an affinity with the important and dramatic Cullen in the Art Gallery of Hamilton's Paris, Winter on the Seine of 1902. Safely said, Montreal Harbour is executed sometime between 1899 and 1912, the generation during which Cullen painted some of his finest urban paintings and certainly among his most popular in the market place. Research of images showing the Port of Montreal at the end of the 19th Century lead one to the important Notman Archives at the McCord Museum here in Montreal.


The perspective Cullen has selected appears to be in all likelihood where the Custom's House was located looking eastward with the dome of the Bonsecours Market in the upper left flanked by Bonsecours Church. Reflecting upon the price paid publicly last year for Lachine Canal and just now leafing through images of Cullens available in the market place, I have not the slightest doubt that this painting is first and foremost an especially fine and historically significant Cullen, also a rare purchasing opportunity and, despite its small format, far and away the finest Cullen to my knowledge available in the market place.

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