Monday, 11 June 2012

Maurice Milliere (1871-1946)

"Le Petite Femme de Milliere"
She was the creation of Maurice Milliere (1871-1946), the ever present girl in his illustrations and etchings, his trade mark model

Maurice Georges Louis Milliere was a French, painter, etcher and illustrator, best remembered for his risque illustration for the magazine La Vie Parisienne.

He was born in Le Havre to upper working class parents; his father was a merchant's clerk. His early artistic interests are not known, but we can assume he was a creative child as he completed his secondary education at the Ecole De Beaux Arts in Le Harve before travelling to Paris in 1889 to continue his studies at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs.

On graduation (if that is the correct term) his early artistic endeavours were limited to landscape painting or portraits of Parisian society ladies.

The first etchings appear from c1907 and by 1910, at this early stage of his career his style resemble that of Paul Cesar Helleu (1859-1927), with fashionable "Belle Epoque" society ladies dressed in flowing Edwardian gowns and wearing big floppy hats.

Paul Cesar Helleu c1895 (left) and Milliere 1910 (right)

His boudoir style of young women; unconsciously erotic yet quite adorable seem to develop from about 1910 and came to be known as "La Poupees de Milliere" or doll women. His dolls are more overtly sexual in his illustrations for magazines, not just showing a little bit of flesh, but bearing all, no imagination required to see what is on offer !! his etchings seem a little tame compared to some of these.

illustrations for La Vie Parisienne 1921-24 - Link
"La Poupee" has lost her innocence !

Soon after his favourite model, muse?, appears. If you look closely you will find her in many his illustrations for La Vie Parisienne and his etchings. You can almost date the picture of the 1910 to 1918 period by her look; as she can be seen to grow from coy teenager into the more worldly voluptuous young women of later compositions. Sadly, as the story is told, she vanished during WW1 never to be seen again, other than through the imagination of Maurice. No one knew her name, which only adds to the mystery.

His etchings continue to develop through the 1920's losing the Edwardian Helleu influence and gaining a free spirited art deco feel; big full crinoline skirts, dogs and cats, all the elements you find Grellet or Icart, whilst keeping his own style. His boudoir art can never be called a pastiche of Icart, not influenced by other artists of the genre, just the fashion and Zeitgeist of his time.

His art was not limited to etching, he continued to paint, usually in oil on canvas. Oddly his style moved away from the portraiture of his early career to a more Monet like impressionist style. Which whilst painted in a fashionable highly and brightly coloured palette was perhaps an out dated style, a little bit passée when painted in the 1930's.

This example "Foret de Fontainebleau" is an oil on canvas dating to 1931.

For sale at and priced at £12,500 !! wow - cheaper than a Monet, but just think how many original pencil signed boudoir etchings you could buy instead.
Maurice Milliere was undeniably a commercial success, in addition to his original works of art such as the oil paintings and etching, he was a prolific commercial illustrator, being commissioned to create images that were used in magazines such as La Vie Parisienne and Fantasio, on postcards, posters, menus and product packaging. He also gained much critical success, exhibiting at "Salon des Artiste Francais", "Salon du Humoristes" being made a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and at the 1931 L'Exposition Coloniale where he was awarded a gold medal.

Maurice is my favourite of all the boudoir artist, on average I like 90% of them, a far higher number than for Louis Icart. Perhaps he isn't the most recognised name, the general art deco loving public will alway name "Ic - cart" before any others - good because that leaves the Milliere for me and a select group of connoisseurs. Like other artists, his period work can be bought quite reasonably, if you can't afford a £12500 oil painting then a period postcard will on;y cost you £10-20. The original pencil signed etchings and aquatints are increasing in value and good clean, well framed examples will cost quite a few ££££.

A selection of postcard designs.

SEE - for current stock.

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