Antoine Malliarakis aka Mayo Biography

Antoine Malliarakis aka Mayo




Antoine Malliarakis, aka Mayo, was born on February15, 1905 in Port Said, Egypt, the son of a Greek engineer and a French mother. Although he kept a Greek passport throughout his life, he was culturally French and lived in France for half of his life after leaving Egypt. He came to France to study architecture but started frequenting artistic circles in the Paris of the roaring twenties and decided to become a painter instead. He made a living decorating cabarets and, later, designing costumes for stage productions, while continuing to paint.

He moved to Paris in 1924 and met Man Ray, Desnos, Tzara, and Salmon in Montparnasse. He frequented Le Jockey Club, a famous gathering spot of artist at that time, there he met Tzara, Picabia, and Foujita and became friends with Kiki of Montparnasse, and in 1924 he was accepted at the Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1927, René Crevel introduced him to André Breton, leader of the Surrealist movement, but Mayo had no interest in participating in a collaborative movement. Two years later in 1929, Mayo exhibited with Chirico at the Galerie des Quatre Chemins. He participated in many group shows and in 1930 rented his own studio. He contributed to the magazine Le Grand Jeu. Like many of the Surrealists the Popular Front and the terrible Spanish Civil War inspired many of his compositions. During this time he also experimented with printmaking at S.W. Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris.

In 1944 his friend, writer Jacques Prévert, recommended him as costume designer for the classical period piece "Les Enfants du Paradis". The film was a hit and allowed Mayo to lead a 20-year career in French cinema, designing the costumes (and sometimes the scenery) of several classics. In the meantime, he also worked as art director on many commercials. With the early 60s, and the coming of the "Nouvelle Vague", period pieces became less frequent, and Mayo had less work offers. He ultimately decided to leave movies to concentrate on his paintings. Having moved to Rome, Italy, in the mid-sixties, he finally managed to make a good living with his paintings alone.

In 1966, Mayo moved his soon-to-be demolished Paris studio to Rome at Via Magutta. Following this move, Mayo began a new body of work. He painted historic ruins from antiquity. This period of Mayo’s work is known as “Période Romaine.” In 1983 the Centre Cultural Français de Rome exhibited a retrospective of Mayo’s work, including the recent images of historic ruins. In 1985 Mayo returned to France. He received the Grade de Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Unfortunately, in the early eighties, Mayo gradually lost his eyesight.

In 1984 he moved back to France and died in Seine-Port, Seine-et-Marne, on October 1, 1990, aged 85.