Marius Passa, who signed his paintings Mayeu, was unknown in France and in the Grésivaudan where he lived. However, New York and Tokyo is where he exhibited his works. And high up in La Terrasse, at the hamlet of Mont Lachat, the "old owl", as he liked to be called, had his workshop.
Mayeu Passa was self-taught.
He drew his first inspiration in his native Provence. But it was his encounter with Matisse that really triggered his vocation as a painter. One night in his youth, Mayeu saw the great painter at his easel on the island of Porquerolles. But he never dared to approach him. He later rediscovered his true calling in the paint books lent to him by students of the cure center of St. Hilaire du Touvet, when he had to stay there suffering from a persistent lung disease.
The "old owl" painted his whole life all alone, intent to avoid any more sarcasm from those who dared see his paintings. Fortunately some believed in him. He first painted still lifes and his style evolved from abstraction to symbolism. Nicole Cabret, in an article in the newspaper "Le Monde", described Passa's paintings as made up of "signs inspired by hieroglyphics, dancing to the rhythm of his fancy, in a ballet of forms and colors. An amazing abstraction, his work surprises".
Kenneth Nahan, one of the most important American art dealers, saw in him "an heir of Paul Klee and Marc Tobey". It is through this merchant that Passa's value rose very quickly in the United States and especially in Japan.