Alfred Manessier is a non-figurative French painter and stained glass maker of sacred art from the last half of the twentieth century and was associated with the Lyrical Abstraction movement after the Second World War. He is also known for his vibrantly colored lithographs many of which are in this exhibition.
In 1943 Manessier experienced a religious awakening during a 3-day visit to a Trappist monastery. Soon after he converted to Catholicism and had a fertile period of abstract painting with luminous colors. These non-figurative works are not simply an exercise in formal elements of color or design, but evoke the central narratives of his Christian faith. The titles of his works allude to the religious meaning made evident through combinations of symbols, color and abstract imagery.
Manessier created several lithographic cycles that relate to the biblical narrative of Easter. His 1978 Suite de Pâques is a series of 15 abstract images, many consisting of luminous color radiating from beneath dark latticed patterns. The series begins with Jardin des Oliviers, Envisons l’arrestation de Jesu in the deep colors of night, bursts with intense reds and purples in Les Tortures, and then depicts La montee au calvaire and Le crucifiement with the symbol of the cross. The last half of the series has lighter, more celebratory tones as we approach Le tombeau vide (the empty tomb), Le message de l’ange and the L’apparition a Marie de Magdala.
Alfred Manessier: Composer in Colors includes several other lithographs: Laudes with its meditative blues and light tones suggests quiet contemplation; La Nuit (Night) and A l’obscure (In the dark) alludes to the depths of the soul and the mysterious realms; Early Spring lightens the tone and rings of hope eternal. The original lithographic poster, Crown of Thorns, recalls the many times he used this image for his paintings.
It is hoped that this show will introduce Alfred Manessier as an important artist of faith whose art rings forth a witness. Manessier’s art stands as a model of hope in a world searching for meaning.