Maximilien Jules Constant Luce remains a very important figure in French Neo-Impressionism, as a Pointillist and a social realist, well-known for his paintings and engravings.
Born in Paris in 1858, Luce came from a working-class background and started out with a three-year apprenticeship for a wood-engraver at just fourteen years old, whilst also taking night classes in drawing. When his family moved to Montrouge, a southern Paris suburb, he continued his drawing lessons being taught at the Gobelins tapestry factory by Diogène Maillard. Later he began working in the studio of Eugène Froment producing woodcut prints for different publications. However, following his four years spent in the military from 1879-1883 serving in Brittany as a corporal, he returned to find a lack of jobs for engraving and began to focus on painting full-time. Throughout the 1880s Luce became friends with a number of Parisian painters, including Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac, and joined the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1887 after moving to Montmartre at the heart of Paris. It was here that he was introduced to Divisionism, an artistic technique created by Seurat which practiced the separation of colour into adjacent dabs or dots to suggest the effect of light and went on the form the technical basis of Neo-Impressionism. He began participating in the group’s spring exhibitions, at the first Signac even purchased one of his pieces called La Toilette, and he continued to do so nearly every year until he died in 1941. His first solo exhibition was in 1888 showing 10 paintings at the La Revue indépendante offices.
Luce also discovered friendships with anarchist writers and journalists in this period with many of his illustrations being featured in socialist periodicals, such as La Revolte. However, in the early 1900’s as he became less active in the political philosophy of anarchism he shifted away from the neo-impressionist pointillist technique and resumed painting in an impressionist manner. In 1934 he was elected the president of the Société after Signac’s retirement but soon resigned in protest for their policy restricting the admission of Jewish artists. Over his career Luce depicted a diverse range of subjects, most frequently being landscapes from his travels to Etampes, Normandy and Brittany, as well as still lifes and domestic scenes.