In Paris, on the 3rd July 1971 – in controversial and still unclear circumstances – James Douglas Morrison died suddenly. He was the leader of the famous rock band The Doors from Los Angeles (Venice) in California, a musical group which was one of the most original and most impressive artistic phenomenon of the twentieth century. During his lifetime Jim Morrison had already achieved cult status in popular Western culture, as a distinctive and extremely gifted rock singer and poet, and a man with a unique visual appearance. He was also one of the fore-runners of the rebellious counter-culture in the United States at the end of the sixties. After his premature death, even to this day, the number of admirers of his artistic work and life philosophy continues to grow, contributing to Morrison’s legend not only in his native America but throughout the entire world.
As one of his admirers, during the late seventies the young Croatian sculptor Mladen Mikulin came up with the idea of making Jim’s stone bust and placing it on Morrison’s final resting place, in an attempt to dignify his grave, which was at that time neglected, undignified and hidden in the Paris cemetery of Pére-Lachaise. In this way, he would also pay a personal homage to the American poet and musician as the torchbearer of artistic freedom. Thanks to his sculptural gift, in the spring of 1981 Mikulin completed an extraordinary portrait sculpture, which was then – overcoming international administrative problems – successfully placed on the fore-mentioned grave together with the base stone on which Jim’s name was carved along with his year of birth and death. This was on the 4th June 1981, just a month before the 10th anniversary of Morrison’s passing away in Paris.
More than thirty four years ago, Mikulin’s sculpture amazed everyone at that doleful ceremony thanks to its astonishing artistic aura and its dignified white Macedonian marble. Along with a number of admirers, members of Jim’s rock group were present on this occasion – the keyboard player Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, the top instrumentalists whose musical virtuosity helped to fully develop Morrison’s artistic talents.
After Mikulin placed Morrison’s bust on the artist’s grave – which even before had been a magnet for fans – it became even more attractive for admirers and raised it up to being one of the most visited and most photographed places in Paris. Sadly, this wonderful sculpture, unprotected from visitors, also became an irresistable target for demimonde and numerous vandals. Over the years as it stood on the grave, it was persistently damaged by graffiti, coloured scribbles, cuts and pieces broken off, until in the end it was almost turned into some kind of farcical monument of primitivism.
In the spring of 1988, when it suddenly disappeared, the monument was so badly damaged that it hardly resembled the original great work. Thanks to the large number of the preserved artistic photos, there is a crystal clear memory of the time when it was untouched. In this sense, Mikulin’s sculpture actually had the similar fate as the artist, whose deceased figure and living spirit were so strongly evoked in that work of art.
This commemorative web site is an electronic version of the booklet which was published on the 3rd July 2011. Along with selected documents from the sculptor’s archives, a couple of related photographs have been chosen from the collection of its creator, the academic sculptor Mladen Mikulin. Included are also pictures from the French photographer Patricia Devaux, who otherwise up to the present has published several booklets with her own artistic photos of Mikulin’s sculpture on Morrison’s grave. This web site as well contains the photographs by Michelle Campbell, Rainer Moddemann and Ulrich Heumann, who are also among the well-known admirers of the artistic legacy of Jim Morrison and the group The Doors.
In the introductory part of this web site a visitor can read a short, but in fact a very valuable article by Darko Glavan about the sculptor Mladen Mikulin as the portraitist of Jim Morrison. Glavan – the leading Croatian rock critic and well-known art historian – was also Mikulin’s personal friend who, sadly, was tragically killed in a car accident in 2009, after the Santana concert in Varaždin, Croatia.
The visitors of this web site can also read an interview on Croatian Radio-Television with the sculptor which was conducted by Darko Glavan in July 1996, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Paris tomb statue of Jim Morrison.
In connection with this, it should be emphasised that during the seventies of the last century, the unknown and aspiring young sculptor was strongly influenced by Glavan’s texts about The Doors and Jim Morrison, as well as his remarks on Jim’s final resting place in Paris. It was Glavan’s excellent knowledge of the world music scene which to a large extent had popularised The Doors in Croatia (at that time the country was part of communist Yugoslavia). For this reason the above-mentioned booklet as well as this web site – apart from being a memory of Mikulin’s sculpture and of the great American artist himself – are also dedicated to the memory of Darko Glavan.
Finally, it should be said that Mladen Mikulin, after the disappearance of the original marble bust from the grave (in May of 1988), planned the installation of new, this time bronze bust of Jim Morrison, which would be more resistant to cemetery vandalism, but he eventually gave up of the project due to problems with obtaining a license for new intervention with the grave. The plaster model of that sculpture still exists in the author’s collection, and it was publicly presented for the first time within the Zagreb exhibition of funerary art »Mors Porta Vitae« in 2011.
30 years after the death of the American poet and more than a decade after the disappearance of the original monument, in 2001 Mikulin made a really touching and imposing bronze sculpture of the late Jim Morrison in the form of a death mask. His wish was to see it one day – with the appropriate protection and under much better control than was previously the case – placed at the top of the new headstone on the grave which was laid by Jim’s parents on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his death. The death mask of Jim Morrison in this website is for the first time photographically presented to the wider international cultural public. The hope is that it will, with the understanding and permission of the family and the Paris administration, in time be placed on the grave of Jim Morrison. This highly artistic bronze sculpture could again revive and visualise the memory of that incomparable man above his final resting place.
8 December 2015
Elvis M. Lukšić