|Born||Mirka Madeleine Zelik
18 March 1928
|Education||Self-taught and Heide artist|
|Known for||Painting, Sculpture, Mosaics|
|Awards||Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres|
Mirka Mora (born 1928) is a prominent French-born Australian visual artist who has contributed significantly to the development of contemporary art in Australia. Her mediums include painting, sculpture and mosaics.
Mora was born in Paris, to a Lithuanian Jewish father, Leon Zelik, and a Romanian Jewish mother, Celia 'Suzanne' Gelbein. She was arrested in 1942 during the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup (Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv). Her father, Leon, managed to arrange for her release from the concentration camp at Pithiviers (Loiret) before Mora and her mother, Celia, were scheduled to be deported to Auschwitz. The family evaded arrest and deportation from 1942 to 1945 by hiding in the forests of France.
Having survived the Holocaust, Mora and her husband, Georges Mora, migrated to Australia in 1951 and settled in Melbourne, where they quickly became key figures on the Melbourne cultural scene. Georges, a wartime resistance fighter, became an influential art dealer, and in 1967 he founded one of the first commercial art galleries in Melbourne, the Tolarno Galleries.
The Mora family also owned and operated three of Melbourne's most famous cafés. The Mirka Café was opened in December 1954 at 183 Exhibition Street and was the venue for the first major solo exhibition by Joy Hester. It was followed by the Café Balzac at 62 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne and then by the Tolarno in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, which opened in 1966. All three were focal points for Melbourne's bohemian subculture. As Mora's son Philippe recalls, "my parents literally fed artists at our home and in our restaurants." As a result, their three sons had what Philippe describes as "a culturally privileged childhood".
The Mora family's social circle included many Australian artists who subsequently became world-famous: Ian Sime, Charles Blackman and Barbara Blackman, Fred Williams, John Perceval and Mary Perceval, Albert Tucker, Barrett Reid, Laurence Hope, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Joy Hester. The Mora family were especially close friends with renowned art patrons John and Sunday Reed, and spent many weekends at their famous home and artists' colony, "Heide" (now the Heide Museum of Modern Art) in the outer Melbourne suburb of Bulleen, and at the Reed's beach house in Aspendale.
In 1966 the couple established the Tolarno restaurant and gallery in St Kilda, Victoria.
Mora uses a wide range of media and her work features strongly in the permanent collection of the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne. She is a noted colourist and symbolist. Her paintings are often bright and bold, drawing heavily on a stable of recurring motifs - innocent, wide-eyed children, angels, dogs, cats, snakes and birds. For many years she has conducted workshops in painting, soft sculpture and mosaics, where countless Australians have learned from her unique approach to teaching art.
In 2002 Mora was made an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture and Communication.
Mora, Mirka., 2002, Wicked but virtuous:my life / Mirka Mora, Penguin Books, Camberwell, Vic.
- George Negus Tonight Profile
- St Kilda restaurant row takes a priceless turn
- Photos of Mirka Mora by Robert Whitaker