Much-loved Melbourne artist Mirka Mora, who helped transform the city’s cultural identity, has died at the age of 90.
Her son, art dealer William Mora, confirmed her death in a statement on Monday night.
“An artist and mentor who touched the lives of thousands, she has had an indelible effect on Australia’s cultural life,” he told Fairfax Media.
“At 90, she fought Alzheimer’s and age-related illness to the end. The joie de vivre she has shared with so many will continue in her immense legacy of art and her spirit of generosity.”
Ms Mora was born in France in 1928 and narrowly escaped being sent to Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation. She was arrested in 1942, but her father organised her release from the Pthiviers concentration camp, before she was to be transferred to Auschwitz. For the next three years, the Mora family escaped the Nazi’s by hiding in forests in France.
She married French resistance fighter Georges in 1947 and the couple then came to Australia with their son Philippe in 1951.
The family brought European-style dining to Melbourne in the 1950s, including Mirka Cafe on Exhibition Street and Balzac in East Melbourne, which was the first restaurant in the city to get a 10pm liquor licence.
Ms Mora first trained in mime and drama under legendary artist Marcel Marceau before her focus shifted to painting with a prolific output to her name.
“Her colourful, sensuous iconography has emerged from the breadth of her interests and reading, her love of classical mythology, her desire to reclaim and make sense of childhood and familial relations, and her recognition of the power of sexual desire,” her biography on son William’s gallery website reads.
In 2003 Mr Marceau presented Ms Mora with the Officier des Arts et des Lettres at a presentation in front of her family and friends.
The award is presented by the French government to people who have made a significant contribution to art and culture. Previous recipients include Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg and Elton John.
Ms Mora is survived by her sons Philippe, William and actor Tiriel, and their children.