Acrylic, charcoal and spray on 24″ x 24″ wood
“The French Angel” Maurice Tillet has possibly one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, but most people have never heard of him. Born in the Ural Mountain region of Russia to French parents in 1903, before fleeing the country to France in 1917 with his widowed mother to escape the Revolution. As a child he was given the nickname of ‘The Angel’ due to his angelic face, but at the age of 17 he began to notice swelling in his hands in feet. This was later diagnosed as acromegaly, a condition caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland, which results in bone overgrowth and thickening. This is the same condition that afflicted Andre the Giant, The Big Show, The Great Khali, and even Abraham Lincoln.
Following a five year tour with the French Navy, Tillet began training as a professional wrestler in Paris in 1937. He worked France and England for two years, before fleeing Europe for the United States due to the onset of World War II. Settling in Boston, he soon joined with their version of the American Wrestling Association, where as the unstoppable French Angel he held the World Title from 1940-1942, and for a short time in 1944. His success led to several ‘Angel’ imitators, including ‘The Swedish Angel’ Tor Johnson, with whom Tillet feuded with on several occasions. Tillet passed away in 1954, and is buried outside of Chicago, IL.
While it has not been confirmed, it is widely believed that Maurice Tillet was one of the inspirations for the animators at Dreamworks as they were developing the character Shrek. When you look at pictures of him side-by-side with the character, the resemblance is striking. Regardless, Tillet will remain one of the most unique men to step into the squared circle!
About the piece: I wanted to do something different here, so I introduced charcoal into the mix! I first outlined the figure, then did the stripe of red spray paint for composition and dramatic purposes. I then shaded in the mid-tones with the charcoal, and followed that up with acrylic black paint for the deep shadows. I then finished with the whites of his eyes, and as Maurice Tillet would say, voila!