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.
Pomp and Ceremony
As a highly decorated soldier in the Great War, Maze new the military arena intimately. In the Second War he commanded a battalion of the Home Guard interrupted by a spell on the continent on a yearlong special mission for Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris at SHAEF. He enjoyed the visual feast that a splendid martial and state occasion afforded an artist. His many contacts in the military establishment, including Sir Winston Churchill, who he'd first encountered in the trenches, allowed him privileged access to the annual Trooping the Colour ceremonies and he was often to be seen, a lone figure at an easel at Horse Guards or Windsor Great Park recording each event for posterity. Indeed for major state occasions, coronations and the like, the army erected a special wooden stand granting a unique perspective above the throng. Wildenstein's held a show of his work depicting military pageantry in 1973 entitled 'Paul Maze and the Guards'. After his death a memorial service at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea was organised for him by his friend General Sir Michael Gow.
In January 1950 the newly married Paul and Jessie bought Mill Cottage in Treyford, a small hamlet near Midhurst. Paul had been struck by the beauty of the countryside while commanding the local Home Guard and had decided to spend his remaining days there. He painted en plein air in the Sussex Downs in all seasons and weather until his death nearly thirty years later. Particular attention was paid to the garden at Mill Cottage, a mature garden to which the Maze's added a number of rare plants that Jesse ensured filled the interiors of Mill Cottage in summer. Maze adored the open countryside and most mornings set out with a low stool and a 'baby carriage' laden with hundreds of pastels carefully ordered so as to be chosen by touch so as not to lose concentration on the Sky, fields and woodland for a moment.
In his preface to Paul Maze's 1948 solo exhibition at Marlborough Fine Art the Critic Simon Levy wrote "To be able to capture nature in its moods and in its movement and to achieve in so delicate a medium as pastel so complete a self-expression is a consummation that one cannot but admire"
As a French Norman by birth and a naturalised British subject Maze spent the majority of his time between France and England. He fought in France in the Great War and took a studio in Paris between the wars settling for the most part in West Sussex from 1950. He had enjoyed a close friendship with Consuelo Balsan since the war and she lent the Maze's a mill house on her estate St Georges Motel, a château in a small commune near Dreux, about fifty miles from Paris. Consuelo (nee Vanderbilt) had been Duchess of Marlborough until her divorce in the 1920s and was still close to Winston Churchill who often visited to paint alongside the community of impressionists that gathered there.
In the early 1950s the Maze's were introduced to Laurence and Mary Rockefeller who soon became firm friends and patrons. In 1952 the Rockefellers invited Paul and Jessie to stay in New York to attend Paul's large solo show opening at Wildenstein's. A planned month turned into a year's sojourn, having been lent a house in Centre Island they enjoyed invitations to Maine, Palm Beach and Fisher Island and another show was held at the Worth Avenue Gallery in Palm Beach.
Although most of the post war period was spent in the rural idyll of Mill Cottage, Treyford the Maze's did summer occasionally in Monte Carlo and Majorca, the latter in a house lent by the Duke of Beaufort, who as David Somerset had organised Paul's exhibitions at Marlborough Fine Art.
Growing up in Le Havre at the turn of the last century Maze was fortunate to have both the encouragement of a father who patronised the contemporary artists of the day and to be surrounded by some of the greatest names of French painting of the day setting up their easels on his doorstep. He watched Pissarro paint and painted side by side by an indulgent and sometimes instructive Raoul Dufy. Georges Braque was a childhood and lifelong friend.
After the Great War he returned to Paris and set up studio at 13 rue Bonaparte, fortuitously his neighbours on either side on the fourth floor were Andre Derain and Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac. They introduced him to their extraordinary circle of friends that included Jean Marchand and Ker-Xavier Roussel. Collette the writer amongst so many artists had a habit of nick-naming each member, dubbing Paul Maze 'Le Berger' - 'The Shepherd'. At this stage it was really only de Segonzac who had a significant influence on his career helping him mount his first exhibition at the Galerie des Beaux Arts in Nice in 1921.
In 1932 Maze met Édouard Vuillard in London and they became great friends. Vuillard's Paris dealer Joss Hessel owned a small country house Les Clayes, near St Cyr which he would throw open to a general melee of artists, musicians and statesmen. Here Maze cemented his friendship with Vuillard and the latter convinced Maze to concentrate on working in Pastels, the medium for which he has perhaps become best known; even paying him the great compliment of introducing him to his personal pastel supplier in Paris.