"At some hour of the day the commonest subject is beautiful."
Cullen depicted Canadian landscape in accordance with local terrain, light and colour. He composed his landscape paintings and pastels in keeping with European and Canadian tradition. His innovative use of luminous, Impressionist-influenced colours influenced the next generation of Canadian artists, especially the Group of Seven.
From 1884, Maurice Cullen trained in Montreal under Abbé Chabert at the Institut national des Beaux-Arts et des Sciences, and with the sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert. Cullen moved to Paris in 1889, studying painting with Jean-Léon Gérôme and Elie Delaunay at the École des Beaux-Arts. He enrolled in the studio Julian and studio Colarossi, meeting James Wilson Morrice and William Brymner. In Paris, Cullen learned traditional French academic painting, but encountered Impressionism and the Barbizon School. He returned to Montreal in 1895. He revisited Europe in 1895-1902 and 1925, painting in France, Italy, the Netherlands and North Africa, and served as a war artist in 1918-1919 (Huy on the Meuse, 1919). In Québec and Beaupré, Cullen painted out-of-doors in all seasons, often with Morrice and Brymner.
Maurice Galbraith Cullen grew up in Montreal, studying art privately. After attempting a commercial career, he studied sculpting. At 22, he enrolled as a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. There he met many Canadian art students, and changed to landscape painting. Returning to Montreal in 1895, Cullen spent his summers painting in the Québec countryside and his winters painting city views (Winter Evening, Quebec, c. 1905). He visited Europe (Customs Port, Venice, 1901), Africa (Biskra, 1893) and (in 1930) the Rockies. His winter landscapes (The Ice Harvest, c. 1913) were especially admired. He exhibited in Paris and with many Canadian arts organizations, and taught from 1891 to 1920 at the Art Association of Montreal. In 1900, he became the stepfather of the artist Robert W. Pilot.
1895 First Canadian to be elected associate member of Société nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris
1895 His painting L'Eté bought by the French Government
1899 Elected associate member, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
1904 Bronze medal, Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, St. Louis, Missouri
1907 Elected member, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (diploma painting: Summer Night)
1911, 1913 Awarded Jessie Dow Prize, Art Association of Montreal
1912 Elected first vice-president of Arts Club, Montreal (founded at his studio)