The Weekly

Who was Melbourne artist Mirka Mora?

Get to know this Australian cultural icon.

By Alex Lilly

When one thinks of Melbourne, its iconic street art immediately springs to mind. And one prominent figure who helped to transform the city's cultural identity was French-born artist, Mirka Mora, who died on Monday, aged 90.

William Mora, her son and an art dealer himself, confirmed the news to Fairfax Media.

"An artist and mentor who touched the lives of thousands, she has had an indelible effect on Australia's cultural life."

"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."

Tributes have flooded in to pay their respects, but who was the remarkable woman who helped to make Melbourne the cultural hub that it is today? Take a look back at her extraordinary life.

Who was Mirka Mora?

Born in France in 1928, Mirka Mora was almost sent to the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation, but narrowly escaped.

In 1942, she and her mother were arrested during the largest French deportation of Jews during the Holocaust, and taken by train to a concentration camp in Pithviers. Luckily, they were released from the concentration camp and narrowly avoided being transferred to Auschwitz.

Mirka trained in mime and drama under Marcel Marceau when she was 17 before discovering her passion for art.

When Mirka returned to Paris, she met French resistance fighter Georges and married him in 1947. Along with their infant son, Philippe, the couple came to Australia in 1951.

Not only did the family bring European-style dining to Melbourne with their establishments, the Mirka Cafe on Exhibition Street and Balzac in East Melbourne, but the latter was the first restaurant in the city to get a 10pm liquor licence.

Some of Mirka's many public artworks include the mosaic murals at Flinders Street Station and St Kilda Pier, and even a painted tram. It wasn't limited to murals either- Mirka's work ranged from paintings to tapestries and even to clothing when designer Lisa Gorman designed a 23-piece Gorman collection, that featured prints from four of Mora's original artworks.

READ MORE: Archibald winners; Meet the women slashing the art world's canvas ceiling.

She was made Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2002. The prestigious award is granted by the French government to those who have made a significant contribution to art and culture and famous faces such as Elton John and Meryl Streep have received the award.

Mirka and husband Georges separated in 1970 and later divorced. Though he died in 1992, the artist wrote in her book, "The affair with Georges never ended and lasted 51 years."

She is survived by her three sons Philippe, William and actor Tiriel, and their children, Mirka Mora's legacy will live on and no doubt pave the way for future artists.

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