Denise Mannoni was born in Nîmes in 1918 but spent the first 30 years of her life in Martinque, la Réunion and Madagascar where her father was a teacher. She painted from infancy, surrounded by books on Gaugin and Roualt whose work influenced her early forays into painting. She held her first exhibition at the age of 20 at the salon Calam in Tananarive. She returned to France in 1948, resuming painting and discovering ceramics for the first time with the renowned ceramicist, Francine Delpierre. She also became acquainted with the painters Bocian, Zao-Wou-Ki, Albert Diatto and Sergio de Castro and later, through the Galerie Valérie Schmidt, with Lamy and Jean Robert. Her first exhibition in Paris was held at the Galerie Michel Boutin in 1964 and from 1967 she showed regularly at the Galerie Valérie Schmidt.
Without ever resorting to abstraction, Mannoni shared with her contemporaries, who were adept at abstraction, a taste for the organisation and rhythm of colours and for a sense of design emanating from arabesque lines. Often a figurative interpretation is only suggested by the presence of eyes, which seems sufficient to represent a body from a form which might otherwise be difficult to identify. These eyes are present in most of her pictures and represent a constant through all phases of her work. Her themes, borrowed from everyday life, from her love of animals (sometimes mythological and sometimes religious) and from her beloved science fiction, are impregnated with a poetry of which imagination and humour are the principal constituents. Her technique of using a palette knife on a plywood support gives a particular vibration to her use of colour. Often one sees a conscious lack of paint in some areas which allows the plywood to show through. Denise Mannoni has a natural gift for colour and like her abstract contemporaries, she allows the colour harmony to dominate, without overwhelming the subject thus one might find a green or blue dog, a red or yellow face which contributes happily to the poetry of the whole. Corsican by origin, educated and raised in the French dominions, Denise Mannoni somehow always seemed to bear a southern sensibility from which she never succeeded in escaping, thus it is no surprise that she exhibited regularly at the Salon Terres Latines.