Though Luce favored landscapes above all subjects, he painted more interior scenes than any other Neo-Impressionist artist. His approach was neither methodical nor analytical; instead, he derived his strong qualities as a painter from his varied, all-encompassing outlook and interests. True to his social conscience as a committed anarchist, Luce sought to arrive at a synthesis of elements that would convey the totality of the experience of modern urban living. Luce’s method was similar to that of Paul Signac; both painters preferred to initially explore a motif through studies done on site, which they subsequently developed and realized in the studio.
Luce’s philosophy that art should address the people aligned closely with the beliefs of Robert Bernier, one of the chief editors of La Revue Moderne. “It is because Luce is a man of the proletariat, a poor man, that he has felt pain and has borne afflictions equal to yours. We could perhaps find traces of tears under his brushstrokes.” Bernier writes, “He remained, in his heart, one of the people. If in art, he is one of those at the fore, in society, too, as a citizen, he could claim his place in the front ranks. Luce is one of those who will contribute to ending the misunderstanding between artists and the people. He is one of those who will help us achieve complete harmony” (quoted in J. Pissarro, “Luce and Pissarro, Neo-Impressionism, Anarchy, Truth and Utopia,” Maximilien Luce, The Evolution of a Post-Impressionist, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 1997, p. 13). Luce's socialist leanings originated from his early witnessing of the Paris Commune and the associated massacre. In 1889, he began to collaborate on the newly founded newspaper Le Père Peinard and was connected with a handful of other left-wing newspapers like La Révolte, Les temps nouveaux l’en dehors, Le chambard, La Voix de Peuple and La Guerre Sociale. Later in life, he was arrested on suspicions of plotting the assassination of French President Sadi Carnot. This incarceration led to further solidarity among his comrades propelling him further as an anarchist icon in early 20th century France.
Only a few years before the execution of the present work, Luce met Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro, artists who had renounced the spontaneous approach of Impressionism to implement a systematic technique, known as Divisionism, whereby color was applied to the canvas in separate dabs of pigment, with careful adherence to color theory and optical laws. Luce embraced this technique, however he differed from these artists due to his intense and instinctive love of color. His originality as a colorist is clearly apparent in Une Cuisine, where the artist applies this structured technique to a quotidian subject matter.
As Robert L. Herbert elucidates, “Here the strong play of light and dark, within a conventional spatial structure derived from the Dutch, provides a classic lesson in Neo-Impressionist color. In the lower left corner, the floor would be all the same color “in reality,” but the contrast between light and shade produces two different effects. The lighter portion has blues and greens dominating and tending to show in our vision as a blue-green. In the adjacent shadow, all hues are darker in value, and they are also more intense because they are not overlaid with the bleach-like film of sunlight. The reds and blues dominate but since they are seen separately, they attain the characteristic vibration the painters sought. Throughout the picture, Luce increases the contrasts of hue and value as two areas meet creating zonal bands that look forward to Analytical Cubism of 1911” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1968).