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Portrait of Georges Mora
, 1956

by Charles Blackman

oil on paper laid on board (support: 79.0 cm x 80.2 cm)

Georges Mora (1913–1992) was born Gunter Morawski to a Leipzig Jewish bourgeois family of Polish descent. Fleeing from Nazi Germany to Paris when he was seventeen, he changed his name to Georges Mora. During the war he took an active role in the Resistance; when peace came, he worked as a patent dealer. He married Mirka Zelik, a French-born Jewish artist, in 1947 and the couple migrated to Melbourne with their first son, Philippe in 1951. Two more sons, William and Tiriel, followed. Soon the couple became friends with the city’s leading artists and collectors, including the Reeds, and were instrumental in the re- formation of the Contemporary Art Society. Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s they opened the European-style Mirka Café in Exhibition Street (the first Melbourne café with outdoor seating), the Balzac in East Melbourne (the first restaurant with a licence to serve liquor after 10pm) and the Tolarno in St Kilda. While Georges established himself as an art dealer as well as a restaurateur, Mirka became a Bohemian icon of the city. The couple separated in the early 1970s. In 1985 Georges married another artist, Caroline Williams, and they had a son, Sam, born in the same year. Made a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 1989, Georges was still operating the Tolarno Gallery in South Yarra when he died. William Mora can lay claim to being one of only three second-generation art dealers in business in Australia today. The Georges Mora Foundation, launched by Dame Elisabeth Murdoch in 2006, is a not-for-profit cultural foundation dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art and artists in Melbourne and Australia.

This portrait is one of three that Charles Blackman made when he and Georges Mora were working together at the Eastbourne Cafe (later the Balzac). Blackman’s former wife, Barbara, comments that it is akin to a self portrait, as she recalls that artist and sitter looked very alike.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2011
Accession number: 2011.52