Saint Louis University

MOCRA presents the first comprehensive exhibition of works by today's preeminent practioner of the medieval art of illuminating manuscripts. The exhibition includes 85 paintings, manuscripts, and other works spanning the years 1975 to 1998.

Bernard Maisner - Moment of Flight (1987) Bernard Maisner

Entrance to the Scriptorium

November 14, 1998 - March 7, 1999

extended through June 28, 1999
opening reception for the artist
Saturday, November 14   5 to 8 p.m.

Moment of Flight, 1987. Acrylic, watercolor, gold leaf, ink, graphite, sand on stretched paper. 36 x 24 in. Collection of Peter and Helen Du Bois, New York.

The Art of the Illuminator
     a lecture by artist Bernard Maisner     

     Saturday, March 27, 1999  2:00 p.m.
     free and open to the public
     for more information click here

In The Beginning, Art
     a lecture by independent scholar and author Ellen Dissanayake

Words Alight: Islamic Calligraphy and the Art of Bernard Maisner
     a lecture by Dr. John Renard, Professor of Theological Studies, Saint Louis University

     Thursday, April 15, 1999  7:30 p.m.
     free and open to the public
     for more information click here

Bernard Maisner catalogue thumbnail

The exhibition catalogue features 70 color reproductions, a catalogue essay by art historian Dore Ashton, and an introduction and interview with the artist by exhibition curator Terrence Dempsey, S.J.

The catalogue is available for purchase at MOCRA during the exhibition.
It also can be purchased online in the MOCRA store.

General Exhibition Information
Hours: Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm
Directions and parking information
Group visit information

(Works of art) are like gateways, where the visitor can enter the space of the painter, or the time of the poet, to experience whatever rich domain the artist has fashioned. But the visitor must come prepared: if he brings a vacant mind or a deficient sensibility, he will see nothing.

George Kubler, The Shape of Time
Maisner - Anaïs Nin, In the Face of Death ... (1980) 

"In the face of death ..." (Anaïs Nin), 1980.
Gold leaf, egg tempera, ink, flower petals on paper.
21 x 14.25 in. Collaboration with Bonnie Behrman.
Courtesy of the artist.
A significant mid-career retrospective
Nearly twenty-five years ago at the beginning of his formal art career, Bernard Maisner entered the gateway of manuscript illumination, immersing himself in the study of texts from Medieval Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. He brought with him a perceptive intellect and an imagination that allowed him to mine the riches of these works, absorb their beauty and mystery, and learn the techniques of illumination.

The exhibition Bernard Maisner: Entrance to the Scriptorium, is the first comprehensive exhibition of Maisner’s art, containing over 85 works spanning the years 1975 to 1998. The exhibition reflects Maisner’s ongoing love of books and pages that began in the mid-1970s and continues to the present; his smaller works of the early to mid-1980s; his multi-paneled works of the late 1980s; the large paintings of the early 1990s; and the more expressive, loose, brush work paintings of the mid-to-late 1990s.

Eminent art historian Dore Ashton perceptively notes that Maisner does not seek to "embalm time." Rather, Maisner reflects Ashton's description of those artists who "set out to grasp the passage of time in living metaphors." His work is rooted in the tradition of illumination that is well over a millennium old; but it is also modern in its concept, its use of materials (egg tempera and gold leaf sometimes juxtaposed with cigarette ash and dirt), its designs and its themes. He has been attracted to passionate writers, be they modern literary figures, musicians, composers, or ancient philosophers.

Maisner is primarily interested in non-narrative texts, which he fully integrates into the design and composition of the overall works. Words flow through hourglasses, rise like steam from a cauldron, or fly out in centrifugal spirals. Often in his microcosmic worlds, Maisner deals with ultimate concerns. As Maisner himself says, his subjects are the "questions of infinity, endlessness, beginnings, endings, emotion, intellect. Unity, opposites and paradoxes fascinate me. Creation, love, suffering, passion, and death . . ." But in pursuit of these themes, Maisner does not desire definite answers—it is sufficient for him to stand in wonder at the mystery of life.

The late art historian George Kubler stated that "when a specific temperament interlocks with a favorable position, the fortunate individual can extract from the situation a wealth of previously unimagined consequences." This is the achievement of Bernard Maisner. He has seen the richness, mystery, and power of illumination with a modern eye, has understood it anew, and has presented the viewer with a "wealth of previously unimagined consequences."

After its initial presentation at MOCRA, Entrance to the Scriptorium travels to the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA; the Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX; and the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA.
About the artist
Bernard Maisner is not only one of the finest illuminators of manuscripts at work today, but an accomplished painter as well. His paintings andilluminations combine text, design and materials in a way unlike any other contemporary work. What results are stunning works of art that are ravishing in their beauty and intriguing in their mystery. Maisner is represented in some of this country’s most prestigious private and public collections. Born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1954, Maisner first became familiar with illuminated manuscripts during his college studies at The Cooper Union in New York. Since that time he has been a guest lecturer, teacher and researcher at such prominent institutions as the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Cloisters Museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Maisner’s search for meaning in his art takes him in the direction of the infinite, of opposites, of reverence of Nature, and of things mystical and unanswerable. This mid-career retrospective exhibition is originating in St. Louis and will travel to six national venues.

Bernard Maisner - Entrance to the Scriptorium (1997) 

Entrance to the Scriptorium, 1997. Oil on canvas. 37 x 44.25 in. MOCRA collection.

Additional links

Bernard Maisner website

Steven Heller interviews Bernard Maisner for AIGA

Bernard Maisner interviewed for "The Art of
Craftsmanship Revisited"
... also see here

Bernard Maisner interviewed for "The Paper Trail" blog

Interview with Bernard Maiser about contemporary illumination

Bernard Maisner in the Directory of Illustration

Manuscripts at The Morgan Library & Museum

Rogier van der Weyden Crucifixion Diptych at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Entrance to the Scriptorium in the media