MAURICE LE GRAND LE SUEUR SULLINS
Maurice Sullins was an airplane waxer in Joliet, Illinois, who began to paint at sixty. Legend has it a dream about a water fountain in France first compelled him to paint. Entirely self-taught, armed with an insatiable appetite for reading and a vivid imagination, he became a true master of his craft with a total command of color, composition and technique.
Over the course of a short career spanning fifteen years (1970-1985), Sullins produced some 1,200 paintings, most of which have never been seen before.
Born on March 26, 1910 in Medora, Illinois, Sullins was the third child of Methodist minister Van Buren Sullins and Jennie Le Grand, whose French heritage greatly influenced the younger Sullins’ work. After receiving a Bachelor’s in Geography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne in 1934, Maurice moved to Joliet with his wife Mary, where he worked various jobs before settling in as an aircraft detailer at the municipal airport.
Although Sullins rarely traveled beyond Joliet, he embraced his French heritage and considered himself an American-French painter, often signing his paintings using his mother and grandmother’s maiden names, Le Grand and Le Sueur.
His works, set in brilliantly imagined scenes in Tahiti, France, Spain and Chicago, often reference European or American masters. While he never copied other artists, he transformed and construed famous recognizable motifs into his own fresh and unique painterly language, believing his purpose was to continue their great work.
Sullins used acrylic on canvas or canvas board, largely worked with 1½ inch and 2 ½ inch brushes and never sketched before painting. He employed many original techniques in his work. For instance, he manipulated his pigment with combs or brush handles and worked with masking tape to form elements of his composition in what he referred to as “X-outs.” He would often hold a paint tube close to the canvas, squeeze a drop of paint out and then pull it up, an approach he called the “eye stop.” His methods of applying paint had many terms including the “Naughty Line,” a horizon line representative of Mother Earth that forms the lower back and buttocks of a female figure; a wavy line squeezed directly from the tube was a “Master Stroke”; a “Grand Stroke” was a horizontal line made in one sweep and a “Grand Sweep” was a horizontal line that went off the canvas and “into eternity.”
Sullins painted obsessively and never showed his work. It wasn’t until he stopped painting in 1986 that he met a columnist at the Chicago Tribune who wrote an enthusiastic article about his life and work, attracting collectors and resulting in a retrospective at the Illinois State Museum in 1988. The exhibition received critical acclaim and the following year, the SEITA Museum in Paris held a solo show for him during the centennial celebration of the Eiffel Tower. The Frank J. Miele Gallery in New York City then represented his work for several years.
Maurice Sullins died on March 21, 1995 at 84 years old. His family placed the paintings in storage, where they remained out of sight for twenty-two years.
In 2017, the Hana Pietri Gallery became the Sullins estate's dealer and presented his first exhibition since 1995 in Chicago that same year. Produced in partnership with the French Consul General of Chicago, the show was met with great excitement, drawing a large crowd and marking the beginning of a series of events re-introducing his works to the public.
July 5 - September 5, 2020
The Grand Maurice
Hana Pietri Gallery / Cornelia Arts Building
September 6 - October 6, 2019
Exhibition of select works
Hana pietri Gallery / Cornelia Arts Building
May 17- July 5, 2019
First exhibition of works since 1995
Residence of French Consul General Vincent Floreani
March 29 - May 31, 2017
Limited Edition Print Available (Ed. of 50)