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Friday, 12 February 2016

Reviews - Giacomo Manzù: Sculptor and Draughtsman

The review of Giacomo Manzù: Sculptor and Draughtsman in The Tablet suggests that: "Most visitors barely notice the bronze relief of St Thérèse of Lisieux in the south transept of Westminster Cathedral, and few who stop in front of it would know the name of the artist. The cloaked young woman looking quietly over her shoulder is the work of Giacomo Manzù (1908-1991), an Italian sculptor who in 1950 won a competition to design a new door for St Peter’s."

Westminister Cathedral considers itself fortunate to have one of Manzù's "most sensitive works." The story of how the Cathedral came to have this work by an artist who is "regarded as among Italy’s greatest modern sculptors" is told in Oremus: "In response to the invitation by the Westminster Cathedral Art and Architecture Committee to Giacomo Manzu that he should produce a low relief bronze wall panel showing St Thérèse of Lisieux for the Cathedral, Manzu submitted a sketch in 1956. This was immediately approved and the commission awarded. Manzu then proceeded to design and produce the bronze in Italy with casting taking place in Milan. The cost was £680, which was defrayed by Miss Janet Howard as a memorial to her sister, Alice Lawrason Howard."

The exhibition at the Estorick Collection is a great opportunity, therefore, to see work by a neglected modern master. In my review of the exhibition for the Church Times I argue that: "Perhaps more than any other modern artist, Manzù experienced both sides of the debate within the Church in relation to modern art — a debate that has revolved around the extent to which the best artists of the day should be commissioned regardless of faith commitment."

Commissioning Manzù was an example of the policy advocated in France by Marie-Alain Couturier and Pie-Raymond Régamey and in Austria by Otto Mauer of seeking to revive Christian art by appealing to the independent masters of the timeCurtis Bill Pepper's An Artist and the Pope documented Manzu's sacred commissions and is a fascinating expose of the difficulties encountered, even at the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church and despite the significant support of Pope John XXIIIDon Giuseppe de Luca and Monsignor Loris Capovilla, in pursuing this policy.

Manzù and Pope John 'both came from Bergamo in Italy but there the affinity seemed to halt, for one was the beloved Pope John XXIII and the other was a Communist bereft of his religious faith was the famous sculptor Giacomo Manzù. Yet Pope John, discerning the man beyond the atheist, commissioned Manzù to make his portrait bust, and despite all the artist's misgivings, there developed between them a warm and deeply significant friendship which drove Manzù to achieve the remarkable bronze Doors of Death for St. Peter's in Rome - the first new doors for the cathedral for 500 years.'

The door 'has large modelled panels that depict the deaths of Mary and Christ, as well as lesser panels that show the deaths of saints and ordinary people. Vatican officials were wary of Manzù’s communist politics and criticized his refusal to temper his unflinching depiction of death and human suffering with a more spiritual theme. Particularly shocking was his depiction of a cardinal looking at a man being crucified up side-down, a reference to the execution of fascists after WWII.'


Graham Parker - Hey Lord Don't Ask Me Questions.

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