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 Légion d'honneur, 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 emigrated 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 College 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 painters Earl Hofmann, Thomas Rowe, Joseph Sheppard, Ann Didusch Schuler, Frank Redelius, John Bannon, Evan Keehn, 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.
Maroger claimed to have 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.
The archival quality of the medium itself is controversial in art circles, in part because its documented use dates back less than a century. This is from Michael Skalka, Conservation Administrator, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.:
[Our convervators] know that Maroger and other media do not betray their bad characteristics for a long time. (60 years is not enough time - oil paint isn't even fully dry in 60 -80 years on a typical thickly painted painting) Maroger (1884-1962) did not influence artists until the early 20th century so 19th century works are not affected by his practices. However, recently, two conservators in a museum in New England examined and studied the work of John Stuart Curry who was an avid fan of Maroger. Many of his works have suffered through the use of the medium. Granted, Curry was a zealot who followed Maroger's early and late formulations. Curry's work employed an early Maroger formula that involved leaded oil, resin and in early versions incorporated water based additives. These have suffered the most.
This criticism can be misleading, however. Many of the media involved in Curry's work (and other followers of Maroger) bear no resemblance whatsoever to the modern mastic varnish/black oil recipe. Maroger medium which is not made properly may contain a large amount of dirt and impurities from improperly filtered mastic varnish, or the black oil may be overcooked, both of which would contribute to darkening and weakening of the work. In addition the overuse of megilp media (or any medium for that matter) tends to create weak paint films. It is in fact more likely that a properly made megilp which is employed with a sound technique and in reasonable proportions would be quite archival. There are extant pictures of at least two centuries painted with the documented use of Maroger medium that have been very well preserved, something probably attributable to the presence of lead in the paint film.
The majority of these recipes are not employed today, as there are few companies to be found that produce them. The primary form of "Maroger medium" known today is black oil ("Giorgione's" medium) and mastic varnish combined in approximately equal parts to form a gel.
While maroger medium is usually mixed directly with oil paints, its proportion should be kept to no more than 20% of the mixture. A useful technique is to rub a very thin film of Maroger medium over the area to be painted and paint into that--known as "painting into the couch." This lubricates the brush stroke. Maroger medium (or any other painting medium, for that matter) should never be used as a final picture varnish, as Maroger requires reaction by admixture with oil paint in order to dry.
The reduced availability of lead, combined with injunctions against lead use in household products and other factors has caused most major paint makers to discontinue the production of Maroger's medium. Many paint makers now offer faux-maroger's media or faux-megilps, generally made by substituting inferior materials such as lime for genuine lead, or (as in the case of Gamblin's Neo-Megilp) by creating a completely unrelated product out of specially thickened alkyd medium. None of these pseudo-Maroger's products produce effects which are at all related to those of real Maroger medium, which depends on specific chemical reactions between leaded oil, mastic resin, and turpentine (the mastic varnish vehicle). Furthermore, alkyds can cause delamination of paint layers when combined with drying oils such as linseed, walnut and safflower oils--all of them used as the primary vehicle in oil paint.