Paul Lucien Maze

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Paul Lucien Maze

Birthdate: (92)
Birthplace: Le Havre, Normandy, France
Death: September 17, 1979 (92)
Treyford, West Sussex, England
Immediate Family:

Husband of Margaret Maze and Private
Father of Pauline Maze and Etienne Maze
Brother of Jeanne Maze

Managed by: Erskine Stuart Richard Guinness
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Paul Lucien Maze

One of the outstanding artists of his generation, often called “The last of the Post-Impressionists”, whose work exudes charm, taste, sensitivity and finesse

Paul Lucien Maze was born in 1887 into an artistic circle in Le Havre, Normandy, of Anglo-French parentage. His father was a prosperous commodities merchant, art collector and friend of Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919), Georges Braque (French, 1882-1963), Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), Raoul Dufy (French, 1877-1953) and Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903).

Maze spent his childhood by the sea, where he would watch Pissarro at work, and from whom he learned the rudiments of painting, and Dufy, who would take him to the beach at Le Havre where they would sketch together.

At the age of 12 Maze was sent to school in Southampton, England to complete his education. It was here he began his love affair with all things English and he remained an Anglophile all his life. On his return to France, he began working for his father before deciding to devote himself to art.

In the First World War Maze’s experiences were unusual and exceptional (1914-18). He served in both the British and French armies: as an interpreter in the British cavalry regiment, the Royal Scots Greys, and later on reconnaissance work in the French Army. He saw action on the Western front and his book, A Frenchman in Khaki, which he wrote after the war, recounts his experiences of that time. He was to serve again in the British Army in the Second World War (1939-1945), in the Home Guard and then as personal Staff Officer to Sir Arthur Travers ‘Bomber’ Harris (Air Officer Commander-in-Chief, RAF Bomber Command and later Marshal of the Royal Air Force) tasked with helping to investigate the effects of British bombing raids on Germany. Maze retired from the Army in 1945. He was a highly decorated soldier, being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (the second highest award for bravery after the Victoria Cross) and Military Medal and bar by the British, and the Croix de Guerre and Légion d'honneur by the French.

During and after the First World War, Maze focused on images of soldiers, in broad, energetic pastel strokes. A British soldier is said to have remarked to him at this time, "Your pictures are done in shorthand". It was this immediacy which gave Maze the facility to record the events of his life, whatever and wherever he may be.

It was in the trenches that Maze met Winston Spencer-Churchill. They were to become lifelong friends. Maze taught Churchill drawing and painting techniques and encouraged him to paint. He remained Churchill’s artistic mentor for the rest of his life.

Following the Armistice in 1918, Maze rented a studio in Paris where he was a neighbour of André Derain (French, 1880-1954) and André Dunoyer de Segonzac (French, 1884–1974). He became a member of the Parisian art scene and numbered amongst his friends, Derain, Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947), Ker-Xavier Roussel (French, 1867-1944) and, in particular, de Segonzac and Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940). He exhibited in France and was given his first solo exhibition at the Independent Gallery in London, in 1925.

Of all his painter friends, it was Vuillard who influenced him most profoundly. Vuilllard took a keen interest in Maze’s work and suggested that Maze could offer a unique contribution to the world of art through the medium of pastels, the medium he felt best suited to conveying the freshness so evident in his work. He took Maze to his own pastel merchant, Dr Roche, who had developed a new formula for chalks, and could offer a colour palette of some 1,600 shades.

Maze described this visit as like being “taken by God to meet God”. Vuillard had offered good advice: pastels ideally suited Maze’s style and temperament and became his favourite medium due to their great colour range and directness of application to the paper. Maze also painted in oils and watercolour but he is perhaps best known for his masterful works in pastel.

Maze was naturalized as a British subject in 1920, shortly after his marriage to the widow of a wartime friend, Captain Thomas Nelson. He moved to 14 Chelsea Embankment in the same year and took to painting the London scene with great enthusiasm, relishing, like so many French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, the fogs and dingy back streets as much as the pageantry and grandeur of the City's setting. Hereafter he exhibited regularly at major galleries in London, Paris and America. It has been said that England took its revenge for losing the English Impressionist Alfred Sisley (British/French, 1839-1899) to France by adopting Paul Maze.

In his foreword to the catalogue of Maze's first New York exhibition in 1939, Winston Churchill wrote, "His great knowledge of painting and draughtsmanship have enabled him to perfect his remarkable gift. With the fewest of strokes he can create an impression at once true and beautiful. Here is no toiling seeker after preconceived effects, but a vivid and powerful interpreter to us of the forces and harmony of Nature".

And, at the time of Maze's exhibition in Paris in 1945, his friend Segonzac wrote, "Paul Maze is above all an intuitive artist; he is the antithesis of the contemporary school of painting which wishes to ignore nature and to practice an art of the laboratory. Paul Maze's Norman origin, his childhood spent in the region of the estuary of the Seine, classifies him with the painters of Honfleur, Rouen, Havre. Jongkind, Boudin, Claude Monet are his visual ancestors; and, like them, with his 'gris colore' he is the poet of the sky and water. Marvelously gifted, overflowing with life, his talent evokes wonderfully everything that is fluid, mobile and living in Nature."

Such were the opinions of two of Paul Maze’s contemporary artists: one a professional, the other a gifted amateur.

In 1950 Maze married Jessie and they moved to Treyford in Sussex. He often said that "Painting was about being in love" and his wife, a Highland beauty with flowing red hair, was both his muse and the subject of the ‘Jessie Pictures’, considered to be some of his finest work. Jessie reigned with a calm serenity over the secluded world which they shared with three King Charles's spaniels and two cats, also the subject of many pictures. Maze believed that "Painters are born, not made" and "The greatest teacher is nature", so it was perhaps to be expected that it was in Sussex that he developed an affection for drawing landscapes and rural scenes.

He visited New York in 1952 on the occasion of his first one-man exhibition at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York and, on his return to London, recorded the funeral of HM King George VI. He was appointed the Official Painter of Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation the following year.

Maze loved life and his joie de vivre and enthusiasm comes through clearly in his art. His work has the freshness and exuberance of a true French Impressionist, the home of his youth. But his art is equally at home on the coastline of Normandy, the countryside of England, or indeed in the teeming metropolis of New York. However, he is best known for his quintessentially English subjects: the social scene, particularly military and sporting occasions, such as racing at Royal Ascot and Goodwood, the Henley Regatta, yachting at Cowes, the Horse Guards on parade or the Trooping of the Colour and other London scenes which he captured with great spontaneity and freedom.

In London Maze held exhibitions at the Marlborough Gallery and a major retrospective Paul Maze and the Guards at Wildensteins in 1973. His skill as a pastellist brought him world renown and 1983 saw major exhibitions of his work in New York and London. In the same year Anne Singer published a biography of his fascinating life in ‘Paul Maze. The Lost Impressionist’ (Aurum Press, London, 1983).

Maze contributed in a singular way to the advancement of art by offering a profound understanding of simple beauty expressed through the special quality of pastels. The unusual lightness and translucence of the medium suited his temperament and subject matter perfectly. Shortly before the Second World War Churchill had written of him, "He is an artist of distinction whose keen eye and nimble pencil record impression with revealing fidelity”. To those who knew him well, and his friends included many of the masters of 20th century art as well as great figures such as Sir Winston Churchill, the man and his work were a delight.

He died at the age of 92 in 1979 with a pastel in his hands looking out onto the Sussex downs. His work is to be seen in many major galleries including The Tate, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, and in private collections worldwide, including that of HM The Late Queen Mother.

The Lady Soames DBE, Churchill’s daughter, in a 1989 speech about the artists who influenced her father, said that, “The famous French artist Paul Maze was a painting companion. The ‘Cher Maître’, as we all came to call this charming man, remained a regular visitor to Chartwell for many years”. And in Thadée Natanson's book on important contemporary artists, ‘Peints à leur tour’, published in 1948, his chapter on Maze is entitled ‘Le charmant Paul Maze’. Indeed charm, taste, sensitivity and finesse are all characteristic of Maze’s work.

The University of Richmond, Virginia, USA held a retrospective exhibition, An Impressionist in England, in his honour in 2000.

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Paul Lucien Maze's Timeline

Le Havre, Normandy, France
Age 33
Age 35
Argyllshire, Scotland
September 17, 1979
Age 92
Treyford, West Sussex, England