Luce and his contemporaries reinterpreted their forebears’ avant-garde style by using a more scientific approach to depict the visual splendor of the modern world. They relied upon harmonious resonance of color and a precise, divisionist application of paint known as Pointillism. When Luce painted this scene of Paris in 1896, the Pointillist technique defined some of the most desirable paintings of the turn-of-century, and it would ultimately have a profound impact on the Fauvists a decade later.
Although Luce embraced the demanding exactitude of the Neo-Impressionistic technique, his application of the style was never as rigid as his colleagues and reflected his maverick personality. As noted by his biographer Jules Christophe, “He applies Seurat’s system with instinctive freedom rather than rigour” (quoted in Marina Ferretti Bocquillon, “Maximilien Luce, Neo-Impressionist: A ‘Barbaric but Solid and Daring Painter’ in Maximilien Luce: Neo-Impressinoist Retrospective, (exhibition catalogue), Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2010, p. 14). “Maximilien Luce never bothered much about theory. The principles of the contrast of colours were subordinated to his strong personality and impressions” (Charles Saunier, ibid.).
Here, Luce’s stunning and free application of yellow and green demonstrates his fascination with the novel effects of urban street lighting. The ground shimmers with the reflection of the street lamps and illuminated storefronts, and the resplendently emerald sky is echoed and complimented by small, targeted spots of green pigment throughout the surface of the canvas.
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