Artist Michel Mockers dies at 100

Headshot of Michel Mockers
Michel Mockers at 100. Photo courtesy of Marie Mockers Numata.

Michel Mockers, fifteen days short of turning 101 on Dec. 17, left us from this world on Dec. 2, 2023, to continue his well-earned journey in God’s love, eternal light and peace. Michel moved to Princeton in 1984 and lived there for twenty years before passing away in Franklin, Somerset. He left behind his wife Claudine Mockers, four children and their spouses, eight grandchildren, and one great grandchild.  

Born on Dec. 17, 1922, in Nantes, France, Michel was a World War II Veteran.  At the age of eighteen, he joined the French Resistance and eventually became a leader overseeing about 2,000 resistance soldiers over the course of the war, while he kept in mind: “I am an artist. All I want is peace. Therefore, I serve my country.” On March 21, 2023, at the age of 100, he was decorated at the town hall of Franklin Township, with the highest French honor, the Insignia of Knight of “La Legion D’ Honor,” on the behalf of the French Government through the French Consulate of New York. He accepted that honor in respect to all the resistance soldiers he had served with.

Michel lived in Cannes and Paris, France before he became an American citizen and moved with his family to the United Stats in the 1970s. He was an oil painter, a sculptor, a traditional lithography printer, a philosopher, a book author, and an admirer of classical music. He cared about humanity, searching for solutions expressed in his philosophy, believing that all human beings had a right to the basic needs of life and that nature was to be respected and cared for.  

According to his wife, Claudine Mockers, Michel’s art was infused by his Catholic background and his educational upbringing at the Benedictine Abbey of En Calcat, a monastery located in Tarn-et-Garonne of France. There, he attended a traditional boarding school from the age of ten to fifteen where he learned classical humanities, Greek, and Latin. The presence of the monks, who themselves held different kinds of talents (artists, farmers, builders, musicians, painters, writers, artisans, cooks etc.) within the walls of the Abbey, had an important influence on the students’ lives. The monastery also offered a Gregorian Choir Chant environment on a daily basis. There, the students learned patience, humility and the desire to complete their work with perfection. 

When Michel started a painting, he first carefully selected a piece of flat, wooden board and painted over it with a traditional coating. Then, he would trace his pencil drawing on paper onto his board until he deemed it ready to be painted. In his atelier, while listening to classical music, he would work on several paintings at the same time. He would give time for them to dry or would retouch them or even modify them until he felt his work was completed. He used a traditional painting technique, called “L’art du Glacis” that he had learned in his early twenties following the end of the war under the guidance of a professor from “Des Beaux Art de Paris.” Michel used colored pigments, layering them on the painting, playing with transparency and the natural lighting. Therefore, starting with a simple piece of wood, with infinite patience and perfection, he would create a masterpiece.

Over the course of his life, Michel did drawings, oil paintings, sculptures, frescos, as well as some artwork renovations. In general, the subject of his paintings were of biblical inspiration and his most repeated theme was the Virgin Mary holding her infant, Jesus. He also painted angels, musicians, prophets, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Jesus on the Cross. On occasions, he painted other themes such as horses, boats, portraits, roses and other figures. He did bronze portraits and statues as well. His art work was mostly sold in Europe and the USA.

In the 1970s, Michel provided to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Church of Brooklyn with several of his oil paintings. One was the Tree of Life representing Jesus and all the prophets of Israel. The other painting is the Pentecost, which is still there inside the church. In the Bronx, at the entrance of St. Frances de Chantal Church there is one of Michel’s bronze statues. This statue represents St. Frances De Chantal holding a globe in her hands with a cross standing on the globe.

Virgin Mary and her child Jesus painted by Michel Mockers. Photo courtesy of Marie Mockers Numata.

On Nov. 5, Michel had just finished renovating one of his paintings representing the Virgin Mary holding infant Jesus in her arms. While he was looking at that painting, he was asked: “Why did you paint so many paintings of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus in her arms throughout your life? Why the Virgin Mary?” After a short reflective pause, he replied: “She is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is my greatest inspiration.” He then added, “Maybe the day I go to the other side I will see the Virgin Mary the way I see her in my painting today” and he peacefully smiled. 

Yes, at the age of near 101, he was still painting or renovating some of his artwork that needed to be retouched. How amazing is that? He lived a modest life to its fullness, until he was called to return to the Divine Source of Life.

Michel, we love you forever and thank you.  

Your family and friends.

By Claudine Mockers, wife of Michel Mockers

Sept. 19 1968 in La Provence/France. Michel Mockers, painting in his atelier in Mougins near Cannes, South of France with his wife, Claudine Mockers. At that time, the French Television had dedicated a film to Michel’s artwork, in the presence of his family. Photo courtesy of Marie Mockers Numata.
Sept. 19, 1968, La Provence/France. Michel with one of his four children, Marie Mockers (Numata), (5 years old).Photo courtesy of Marie Mockers Numata.