Marcel Mouly (1918-2008)

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Marcel Mouly’s boldly colored semi-abstract works attract private and public collectors around the world. Whether they are still lifes, landscapes, interiors, boats, or port scenes, they are collected with equal enthusiasm. Having studied with masters of modern art, including Picasso, Mouly created a unique trademark style and developed a reputation as one of the most important modern artists of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Marcel Mouly was born in Paris, France on February 6, 1918. His interest in art developed in grade school. A precocious, mischievous child, Mouly was first sent to a drawing class as a form of punishment. However, Mouly loved learning to draw and exhibited a natural artistic talent, though his path to a career as an artist proved not to be a linear one.

After leaving school at thirteen, Mouly worked as an apprentice to a local dentist and later worked for a wine merchant, carrying heavy baskets of wine to make his deliveries. In 1935, while still employed by the wine merchant, Mouly began taking night classes in the arts at the Cours Montparnasse 80, where he remained until his military duty began in 1938.

After France fell to Germany in June 1940, Mouly became a civilian again and eked out a living during these difficult economic times working odd jobs. Mouly befriended a fellow artist named Bernard la Fourcade and the two of them established a studio in Auteuil. During a trip to Normandy in 1942, the pair was stopped by German officials and they were questioned for their lack of travel documentation which was, at the time, required by the Vichy government. Mouly and la Fourcade were arrested shortly after their return to Paris and imprisoned as spies. During his solitary confinement, Mouly constantly thought about art and formed the belief that when he became free, he would become a famous artist.

Shortly after being released from prison, Mouly, along with fellow artist Édouard Pignon, rented the Boulogne studio of famed modernist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973). Mouly learned a great deal from Lipchitz, particularly about the style of Cubism. In 1935, after studying painting at the French Academies, he began to show his work publicly. In 1945 he participated at the Salon d’Automne, took part in the open art forums of the Ecole de Boulogne, and studied with Leger, Pignon, and Bertin. The following year, he exhibited at the Salon du Mai. By the mid-1940s, Mouly’s art began to gain notoriety from his peers and collectors and his first one-man exhibition was held in 1949 at the Libraire Bergamesque.

Mouly continued to develop his technique, expertly incorporating his formal art education and the influences of such masters as Picasso (whom he was to study with) and Matisse to create his own unique, trademark style. While one may note his use of the deep, bold colors typically used in Matisse’s Fauvist works, or the Cubism of Picasso, Mouly’s style is uniquely and unmistakably his own. By the 1950s Mouly was already looked upon as an emerging brilliant and skilled young painter. In the mid 1950s, he began to work in the printmaking medium of lithography and he was soon recognized as a master printmaker, as well.

Marcel Mouly’s work has been exhibited throughout the world and is included in the permanent collections of more than twenty museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in Japan, the Museum of Geneva, the Museum of Modern Art in Helsinki, and Paris’ Bibliotheque Nationale. He has also been the subject of numerous books and has been recognized by such honors as the “Chevalier de L’Orde des Arts et Lettres” (1957) and the “Premier Prix de Lithographie” (1973).

Though Marcel Mouly died on January 7, 2008, weeks shy of his 90th birthday, his art and his legacy live on. “His art is pure and direct in its message,” art historian and writer Joseph Jacobs said. “It is an art about beauty and life, an art about the more familiar and comfortable world we live in and know. In this respect, Mouly is quintessentially French, his roots firmly planted in the School of Paris. Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Rouault, Vlaminck, Chagall, Vuillard, and Dufy are his patrimony, and he has carried their mantel with unflagging dedication.”

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