Jacques Maroger

Jacques Maroger (1884 - 1962) was a painter and the technical director of the Louvre Museum's laboratory in Paris, France. He devoted his life to understanding the oil-based media of the Old Masters.

In 1907, Maroger began to study with Louis Anquetin and worked under his direction until Anquetin's death in 1932. Anquetin worked closely and exhibited with the artists Vincent van Gogh, Charles Angrand, Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He was very active in the impressionist movement of the time. In his later years, Anquetin became very interested in the works of the Flemish masters. As Maroger’s teacher, Anquetin provided guidance in the study of drawing, anatomy and master painting techniques. Maroger began to become famous around 1931, when the National Academy of Design in New York, New York reported Maroger's painting discoveries.

From 1930 to 1939, Maroger started to work at the Louvre Museum in Paris as Technical Director of the Louvre Laboratory. He served as a professor at the Louvre School, a Member of the Conservation Committee, General Secretary of the International Experts, and President of the Restorers of France. In 1937, he received the Legion of Honor, and his pride at the honor is reflected in his self-portrait of the time, in which one can see his Legion pin on his lapel.

He immigrated to the United States in 1939 and became a lecturer at the Parsons School of Design in New York. His New York students, Reginald Marsh, John Koch, Fairfield Porter and Frank Mason adopted his Old Master painting techniques, and taught it in turn to their own students.

In 1942, Maroger became a Professor at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore and established a school of painting. At the Maryland Institute he led a group of painters who came to be known as the Baltimore Realists, including the outstanding painter Earl Hofmann, and other members such as Thomas Rowe, Joseph Sheppard, Ann Schuler, Frank Redelius and Melvin Miller.

Maroger published The Secret Formulas and Techniques of the Old Masters in 1948. When Maroger’s book became available, Reginald Marsh drew on Maroger’s book-jacket an airplane dropping an Atomic Bomb on the Maryland Art Institute, a reference to the controversy Maroger was causing in the local press over the abstract art versus realism debate.

Maroger’s formula and techniques have been studied by many modern painters who wish to obtain the paint quality of the Old Masters. The "secret formula" that Maroger devised during his lifetime included the main ingredient white lead. White lead when cooked into linseed oil acts as a drying agent and preservative of the oil paint color layers. If one examines the 17th century master works closely you will find the paintings that are in good to excellent condition, after 500 years, contain the critical chemical white lead. Lead, or litharge, in the Maroger medium acts in the same way as lead paint used outdoors. It stands up to dirt, weather, fading, humidity and other forms of damage. A tour of any major museum to look at what paintings are in good condition and which are not can be directly related to how much lead was used in the paint medium.

Maroger introduced to the modern day artist what the masters achieved centuries before in their paintings, a way to ensure permanence and color quality in oils without sacrificing fluid and subtle paint handling. Equipped with these formulas, the artist could once again blend his paint easily without losing control of his brush. The paint stays where it is applied and does not run off the panel. It dries very fast so that he can paint on the same areas the very next day, which speeds up painting. Above all he enjoys the permanency provided by the medium and avoids cracking and discoloring.

Unjustifiably, Maroger has been criticized by modern writers on painting because of his bold claims about having found the secret formulas of the Masters. But modern day treatises on painting do not recommended better replacement recipes for paint mediums than those provided by Maroger’s mediums. Although Maroger’s paintings are only 50 years old, so far they look as fresh as though painted yesterday, and they closely resemble the technique and look of the masters. They have held up far better than most paintings a year old that were painted with commonly used art supplies.