16 January 2017

Homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. - Alfred Manessier

A tribute from an expected quarter.  Blue and red, water and blood, bursting with life, a force that moves the spirit and the world.
The late Alfred Manessier (1911-1993) is not a familiar name to most Americans.  When Sonia and Robert Delaunay were commissioned to decorate air and rail stations with murals for the Paris International Exposition in 1937, Manessier and three of his friends executed the designs.
After going on retreat in a Trappist monastery in 1943, Manessier experienced a spiritual awakening.  Pondering the connections between the monks' spiritual practices and the nature of the cosmos, he changed his practice of painting,  jettisoning  the decorative elements he had absorbed from the Nabis via his studies at Academie Ranson and with the Delaunays in favor of stronger colors (as seen here) and more dramatic forms.  He also left  teaching to paint full time.   Manessier held the unusual belief that the abstract and the figurative were merely two sides of the same coin in art.  He went on to receive many commissions for public art, from theater costumes to tapestries and stained glass windows.  Where we may see vaguely familiar shapes, Manessier often intended crosses and crowns for churches.
Manessier painted this homage to the American Civil Rights leader in 1964 when King became the youngest person (at that time) ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Manessier - Homage a Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964, Pompidou Center, Paris.

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