Art & Culture

Published on November 1st, 2015 | by Pascal Ordonneau

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Alfred Manessier, The Musician and The Architect.

Here in the small, beautiful museum of Mendjinsky, there is a former artist’s studio by the architect Mallet Stevens, a retrospective of Alfred Manessier.

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Alfred Manessier in 1971. Photo by Wikipedia.

Curious artist, this Manessier… Of course, he would say otherwise, in the form of a question. Manessier is one of the great artists of l’Ecole de Paris – that which dons a number: the second… and yet Manessier is not as recognized as Stael, Le Moal, and Fautrier with whom he has very much in common.

Among these points, one in particular: abstraction. Before the Americans unfurl, before they crush their gigantic paintings of human scale of “Parisians,” Manessier was one of the finest representatives of an abstraction that would qualify as lyrical if the term n was not already taken.

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Alfred Manessier / workshop Lorin, blue Landscape, 1963. Replica of the window in the south bay of the choir of St. Michael’s Church, The Bréseux (Doubs). Coll. Musée des Beaux-Arts. © ADAGP, Paris, 2015 Photo © C. Devleeschauwer. Photo by Pinterest –

Of course, you cannot put him in this category, for here is a painter who works in the privacy and secrecy of his studio. Here is a painter who does not disturbingly show the blows of brushes and the spilling liters of colors. He probably would not have imagined using pretty girls to paint in blue (Klein) as some contemporary go-getters.

Manessier, however, is not a confidential painter, who would be restricted to easel painting, which never would have been more than a few tens of centimeters. He painted over large areas. He inspired and designed very large tapestries, and he especially reinvented stained glass for new sanctuaries or for churches damaged by war.

Why so little recognition? Or more directly, why a presence so confidential if his work is one of the most inspired and addictive of his time? Should we see this indifference as the mark of our time, which is passionate about what yells and not for what calls for patience and peace? Should we believe, too, that Manessier gave titles to his paintings, thereby hinting that he was working on motifs between the Bay of Somme and the Starry Night? He would have spent his time explaining what he was doing in two or three words when painters name their works “Untitled 1” or “243 paintings ax” etc. Should we also revisit his work and note that there was music in it, and therefore, architecture at the same time, where one denounces the disasters of the world by resorting to stridency and cacophony – at the moment when designing a structured work was treated as a return to totalitarian ideologies! The painter who brings his art to religious buildings would be less a “painter” than others who flirt with major collectors.

The paintings of Manessier are imprinted with music and architecture. Music of the spheres, music of the cathedrals, singing of the water in the Baie de Somme, cantatas of twilights and sonatas of the waking morning. After a short surrealist phase, the artist embarked on improbable architectures. Certainly his abstractions are, for the grand “abstractions” that follow them, the “lyrics”, the “gestures”, the “expressionists,” devoid of any excess. Manessier was not part of the artists who exposed themselves without constantly taking break.

No symbolic blood would drip but that of deep blue. No colors that would speak of things and beings that erase the massacre, that form the contrary, unrealistic but clear, and that receive the right amount of color, and not too much that extends beyond the lines.

We also see in his work some musical masses of Fautrier. Some geological structures of Dubuffet. One sees friendly, fraternal matches with Moal.

Manessier would be part of those artists who open some doors, which help the viewers to cross boundaries, to go further, into other perhaps richer, stronger or more welcoming worlds. One would think rather of a universe of prayers, of meditations, and also of the explosion of happiness and joy. Human feelings, very human to the crowds, screaming and cursing their denunciations.

Very beautiful work will come back, and I am sure that these artists will join the passage.

Heading page photo : midetplus.fr


About the Author

40 ans de banque chez plusieurs établissements français et anglo-saxons ; il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres sur l’économie et la banque, d’un livre de voyage, d’un roman et d’un livre sur l’Allemagne. Il écrit pour les journaux et la radio, dont les Echos, le Figaro, Huffington Post, Radio France International.



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