Pastel by Paul Maze DCM MM (1887-1979)
Often called the last of the Impressionists, Maze had a reputation as one of the great artists of his generation. He was born in 1887 into an artistic circle in Le Havre, where the young Maze learned the rudiments of painting from family friends that included Renoir, Monet, Dufy and Pissarro. His father, a tea merchant, sent him to school in Southampton where he began a life long love affair with all things English. On the outbreak of War, the sight of the Scots Greys disembarking at Le Havre inspired him to sign up immediately as their interpreter. A brave and highly decorated soldier, Maze was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal and bar; he sketched continually throughout the Great War, his pencil and paper never far from his bayonet.
During this time he encountered Winston Churchill and a mutual interest in painting led to a lifelong friendship, often with Maze acting as Winston’s artistic mentor. Writing from Chartwell before the Second War Winston described Maze as “an artist of whose keen eye and nimble pencil record impression with a revealing fidelity.” This facility to record the events of his life wherever and whatever they were with distinctive immediacy led a British tommy to describe his work as “pictures done in shorthand”.
Maze immortalized the English Season in art: Goodwood, Trooping the Colour, Henley Eights and Cowes Week where he was a familiar figure on the Squadron steps shrouded in tweed coats and a large hat, whatever the weather.
Maze exhibited at a number of major commercial art galleries in London, Paris and America. In London he had shows at Marlborough and a major retrospective ‘Paul Maze & The Guards’ at Wildenstein in 1973.
Maze’s fascinating life was reviewed in Anne Singer’s biography ‘Paul Maze – the Lost Impressionist’.
From ‘The Passions of Paul Maze’ exhibition catalogue at Panter & Hall in Feb/March 2016 –
Paul Maze fell in love with Jessie Lawrie in the early 1930s, she became the second Mrs Maze in 1950 and the couple remained devoted to each other until Paul’s death in 1979. He painted and drew Jessie constantly, almost to the exclusion of anyone else in their later years. It was his great friend and mentor Édouard Vuillard who convinced Paul Maze to adopt Pastel as his principal medium. He introduced the young Maze to his pastel maker the great Dr Roche, who had discovered a new formula for chalks that had allowed for 1,600 shades. Later Maze had described the experience as having been “taken by God to meet God”. The medium was perhaps put to best use in his loving studies of Jessie. His simple glimpses of domestic moments are reminiscent of the later intimiste works of Bonnard and Vuillard finding beauty in the otherwise mundane. This intimacy found in his small pastels of Jessie, say much for his feelings for her. They are the most natural of all his subjects as, one would guess after years of living under the artists eye, Jessie appears oblivious to the viewer and artist as she carries on with her daily routine, bathing and dressing un-posed and undirected.