Gregoire MichonzeRussian/French, 1902-1982
Gregoire Michonze (Michonznic) was born in 1902 in Kichineff, Bessarabia near the Russian – Turkish border. His early artistic training was at the Art School in his home town where the traditional painting of icons led on to an interest in working with gouache. After Bessarabia was annexed by Romania in 1918 he moved to Bucharest where he entered the Bucharest Painters Academy where he also worked as an assistant set designer at the National Theatre.
In 1922 he traveled to Paris via Greece, Istanbul and Marseilles, a journey which strongly influenced his later landscape painting. In Paris he entered L`École des Beaux Arts. A chance meeting with Max Ernst led to Michonze being introduced to a group of Ernst`s fellow Surrealists.
Between 1927 and 1930 he was producing still lives and surrealist paintings and he had changed his name to the more French sounding Michonze. He met Henry Miller at this time and established a long lasting friendship. By the early 30`s, Michonze moved away from the mainstream Surrealist path and resolved to follow his own style moving to the south, firstly to Cagnes-sur-Mer and then Saint-Paul-de-Vence. He had his first one man show in Antibes in1932.
Between 1934 and 1936 he exhibited at Le Salon des Indépendants with large juxtaposed subjects in a style of surreal naturalism.
In 1937 he moved to New York and Massachusetts and on his return to France, met and married the Scottish artist Una Maclean. During the war he was captured and then freed in 1942.
He returned to Paris and went back to painting portraits and still lives. The Arcade Gallery in London gave him his first British show in 1946 and while living in England and Scotland in 1948 he exhibited at the French Institutes of Edinburgh and Glasgow. He showed in Britain again, as well as the U.S. and Israel after his first Paris exhibition in 1953.
In 1970 he traveled to Venice and Rome on a painting tour.
He died in Paris in1982.
The Museum of Modern Art in Troyes held a major retrospective of his work in 1985.