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 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. At age 13 he left school to work, first as a beach vendor, then as an apprentice to a local dentist and later worked for a wine merchant caring heavy baskets of wine to make his deliveries before pursuing a career of painting. In 1935, while still employed by the wine merchant, Mouly began taking night classes in the arts at French Academies, the Cours Montparnasse 80, where he remained until his military duty begain 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 were questioned for their lack of travel documentation, which was then required by the Vichy government. Mouly and la Fourcade were arrested shortly after their return to Paris, and mistakenly imprisoned as spies. During his solitary confinement, Mouly solidified his plans to make a name for himself as an artist.
Shortly after being released from prison, Mouly, along with fellow artists 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. By the mid-1940s, Mouly’s art began to gain notoriety from his peers and collectors; in 1945 his paintings were exhibited alongside the paintings of Matisse in the Salon d’Automne in Paris. The following year he moved to La Ruche where he became friends with Picasso, Chagall, and Klein, and was also exhibited at the Salon du Mai. Mouly’s first one-person exhibition was held in 1949 at the Libraire Bergamasque. Mouly’s style was influenced by the deep, bold colors typically used in Matisse‘s fauvist works, and by the cubism of Picasso. Beginning in the mid-1950s, Mouly created manylithographs.
Fame and honors
Marcel Mouly’s work has been exhibited all over the world, including in the permanent collections of more than 20 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 recognized by such honors as the Chevalier de L’Orde des Arts et Lettres (1957) and the Premier Prix de Lithographie (1973).
Marcel Mouly died on January 7, 2008, weeks shy of his 90th birthday. ”His art is pure and direct in its message,” said art historian and writer Joseph Jacobs. “It is an art about beauty and life, an art 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.”
- 1990 – Atelier Gourdon, Palm Springs
- 1996 – Musee de Changhai, China
- 1997 – Kwai Fung Hip Gallery, Hong Kong
- 1997 – Park West Gallery, Michigan
- 1997 – Le Domaine Perdu Galerie Meyral Perigerd with his son Pierre, a sculptor
- 1998 – Philipps Gallery, Palm Beach, Florida
- 1999 – Opera Gallery, Paris
- 1999 – University Museum, Carbondale, Illinois with Pierre Mouly
- 1999 – Galerie Nolan Rankin, Houston, Texas with Pierre Mouly
- 2000 – Galerie du Chateau, Noirmoutier, France
- 2000 – Park West Gallery, Michigan
- 2001-Typicahoe Casino,California
- 2005 – Chok Som Bo Kum Pao Gallery, Guangzhou
- 2006 – Opera Gallery, Paris