Maximilien-Jules-Constant Luce was born on 13 March 1858 in Paris. His parents, of modest means, were Charles-Désiré Luce (1823–1888), a railway clerk, and Louise-Joséphine Dunas (1822–1878). The family lived in the Montparnasse, a working-class district of Paris. Luce attended school at lEcole communale, beginning in 1864.
In 1872, the fourteen-year-old Luce became an apprentice with wood-engraver Henri-Théophile Hildebrand (1824–1897). During his three-year xylography apprenticeship, he also took night classes in drawing from instructors Truffet and Jules-Ernest Paris (1827–1895). During this period, Luce started painting in oils. He moved with his family to the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge. His art education continued as he attended drawing classes taught by Diogène Maillard (1840–1926) at the Gobelins tapestry factory.