Born in Paris, France in November 1860 Maurice Levis was an accomplished landscape and genre painter. His career spanned not only the early years of modernism, but also the twentieth century developments of cubism and surrealism. Levis’ artistic education began in the late 1870s at the Académie Julian where he studied with Jules Lefebvre. He also studied with Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1819-1916) and with Pierre Billet (1837-1922), a painter of rural genre scenes that were often set in Normandy and Brittany.
Levis’ choice of instructors reveals the variety of artistic paths available to a young artist in the late nineteenth century. Jules Lefebvre was an academically trained portrait painter, who seems to have had a gift for teaching. On the other hand, Harpignies aligned himself with the Barbizon School, traveling to Italy with Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot in 1861; and Pierre Billet, a largely forgotten artist today, was a follower of the renowned “peasant painter”, Jules Breton. The young Levis was thus educated in both the traditional and the pioneering trends of his day.
In 1888, Levis exhibiting his work at the Salon des Artistes Francais beginning in 1888, and in 1895, won his first honourable mention. Levis then went on to win a bronze medal in 1896, and a gold in 1927.