Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Mother as an artist

On 13 October 1897, Mirra Alfassa married the artist Henri Morisset. She kept the name Alfassa. Henri Morisset, born in Paris on 6 April 1870, was eight years older than she and already had an established reputation as an artist. He had studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Gustave Moreau, the Symbolist painter, who taught Matisse around the same time. Moreau was a liberal teacher who did not impose his own style on his students. Before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1889, Morisset had studied for four years at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs. There his teachers were Bouguereau and Robert-Fleury, who were also professors at the Academic Julian. Morisset was enrolled at the Academic Julian in 1889, as is shown by a surviving register of male students. It was apparently not uncommon at this time for art students to study simultaneously at the Academic Julian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
We do not know when the Mother met Henri Morisset, but it is likely that she knew him for a few years before their marriage and that he was instrumental in her joining the Academic Julian. She was introduced to him by her grandmother Mira Ismalun, who had long known Henri's father Edouard Morisset, a noted artist. Mira Ismalun (whose portrait in pencil, done by the Mother in 1905, is reproduced on p. 49) lived much of her life in Egypt. There she was employed to supply the wardrobes of the princesses, which she ordered from the best dressmakers in Paris. She also commissioned portraits of the princesses "to be done from photographs by the painters Vienot and Morisset"." This may have been the origin of her acquaintance with Edouard Morisset. In her reminiscences in 1906, Mira Ismalun enumerated her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, ending with her daughter Mathilde and her family:

Finally, Mathilde and her husband Maurice Alfassa, who became a French citizen in 1889, have had, after losing a son Max, two children: Matteo, who entered the colonial service on graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique and married Eva Brosse, and Mirra, who married the well known painter Henri Morisset; I knew his father, and it was I who first took her to their home. They have had a son, André.
André was born on 23 August 1898. Earlier that year, Mirra and Henri had been in Pau, a town in the southwest of France, painting murals in a church.


  1. Hello, does anyone know what happen to Matteo Alfassa and/or when and where he died? Did he have children? Thanks!!

  2. Just want to know what sort of occultism was followed by MOTHER...please do let me know at Any articles on subject be sent to.
    thanks...just be


  3. A difficult question. Better you discover it yourself from different sources instead of being prejudiced by any ready made answer.