Born in 1854 in Bosvoorde, Belgium, Jean Mayné came from a quintessentially artistic family. With his father a trained draughtsman who designed furniture, and his mother a painter and watercolourist, the young Jean grew up in a cultured milieu.
Mayné would initially work in his father’s studio as a teenager, before being educated in the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, where he was classically trained with a focus on the classical body. Coincidentally, Mayné would go on place higher than the now much more famous James Ensor, a future member of Les XX, in their final exams in 1879. A year later, he would become a teacher at the Académie d’Ixelles, an institution he would be associated with for most of his life.
Influenced by his teacher Jean Portaels, a director of the Academy, Mayné would work across subjects, from portraits to genre scenes and orientalist compositions, the latter best shown by his role in the creation of the large canvas ‘the Panorama of Cairo’. While his oil paintings are celebrated for their meticulous quality, his drawings and pastel works are conversely known for the expressiveness, a mark of the artist’s impressive range. Today his work still appears on posters and cards, particularly his 1903 work The Giant Snowball, an archetype of the sentimental winter painting.
Particularly adept at understanding the subtleties of the muted interiors and exteriors he sought to capture. Highly influenced by Whistler’s portraiture, he sought to evoke a sense of atmosphere and psychological interest in his studies of domestic life, and enigmatic figures located in often ambiguous settings have proved popular to this day.
Although based largely around Ixelle in Belgium, Mayné’s work would have international appeal. Exhibiting in the Paris, Brussels and Antwerp Salons from the start of his career, he would win a medal at the famous 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris and hold a solo show in Brussels in 1893. Finishing his career largely working in Ixelle, leading the committee for its Artist’s Union, he would even exhibit alongside his daughter Berthe at the 1918 Salon Ixellois, passing the pictorial baton onto the next generation of the Mayné family as his father had done before him. His works still appear in public collections in Ixelles, Leuven and Brussels.