Soignies 1902 - Granada 1992


The son and pupil of the painter Henri Moreau, the Belgian-born artist Max Léon Moreau demonstrated a talent as a draughtsman from an early age, and began painting in oils at fourteen. By sixteen he was making copies of Old Master paintings at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, as well as portraits of the actors of the city’s theatres and cabarets. In 1920 the Moreau family settled in Paris. There the young artist continued to find subjects among the theatrical world, particularly at the Comédie-Française, where he befriended the actor and director Denis d’Inès, of whom he painted numerous portraits over the course of a forty-year friendship. By 1923 Moreau was back in Brussels, where he completed his military service. Long fascinated by the Near East, in 1929 Moreau made the first of five trips to Tunisia. As he noted of the country in his autobiography, ‘it was, for me, a marvel, and I set to work’, painting both portraits and genre scenes. The artist returned to Tunisia and the Maghreb several times over the next decade, and participated in the Salon Tunisien of 1933 and 1934. Some of his Orientalist work was also included in a series of solo exhibitions in Brussels and elsewhere in Belgium. Moreau spent much of the Second World War in Vichy and the South of France, and after the war established a successful international career as a society portrait painter. He continued to travel extensively, living in Marrakech between 1947 and 1950 before settling in Paris, while also working in the Bahamas, England, Portugal and America, notably in New York and Palm Beach. In 1960 an exhibition of his work was held at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York. In 1965, after fifteen years in Paris, Moreau settled permanently in Granada in Spain. He continued to enjoy considerable success, with solo exhibitions of his work mounted in galleries in Spain and Belgium, as well as in France, Italy, Portugal, North Africa and in several American cities. The onset of Parkinson’s disease in 1982, however, meant that he no longer exhibited his work after this date. Following his death at the age of ninety, and that of his widow two years later, Moreau’s estate was willed to the city of Granada, which turned his home and studio into a museum - the Casa Museo Max Moreau - that houses some five hundred works by the artist. A posthumous retrospective exhibition of Moreau’s work was held in Granada in 1996.