MOCRA Exhibitions

MOCRA presents paintings and illuminated manuscripts by internationally recognized master calligrapher Bernard Maisner, honoring a gift by Helen Du Bois in honor of her late husband, Peter. 

Bernard Maisner: The Hourglass and the Spiral

on display now through April 2, 2017

Join us for a panel discussion and closing reception on April 2. Click here for more information.

Entrance to the Scriptorium catalogue thumbnail

A catalogue titled Bernard Maisner: Entrance to the Sciptorium is available for sale. This lavishly illustrated volume was published to accompany the 1999 MOCRA-organized traveling exhibition of the same name. This 88-page volume includes a foreword by MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey, S.J., an essay by the late art historian Dore Ashton, and an interview with artist Bernard Maisner, along with 58 color images. 

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
Admission:  free, with suggested donation of $5/adults, $1/students and children

Directions and Parking information

Group visit information 

A master calligrapher stretching the boundaries of his art

Bernard Maisner (b.1954) is regarded internationally as one of the greatest contemporary masters of calligraphy. Maisner first became familiar with illuminated manuscripts during his studies at The Cooper Union in New York. He went on to teach Medieval and Renaissance manuscript illumination methods and techniques and was a guest lecturer and researcher at such prominent institutions as the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Cloisters Museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Museum in Malibu, California, and the Morgan Library and Museum. His work is represented in some of this country's most prestigious private and public collections, including the Morgan Library and Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Bernard Maisner, Yes, 1989. MOCRA collection.

I believe those of us that are puzzled by our own existence are the ones that are called spiritual. Art that acknowledges or points to these unanswerable questions is seen as spiritual. Some people see life as a mysterious, unknowable gift, unexplainable and undefinable. One can marvel, focus, pay attention to and honor the unknowableness of life. One can study the mystery of life without a desire for explanation. Herein lies the spiritual for me.

Bernard Maisner

Bernard Maisner
ioil, ink, mulberry paper and
   damar on canvas
54 x 64 in
MOCRA collection
a gift of Helen Du Bois in honor of her husband Peter Du Bois


An accomplished painter as well as a master calligrapher and manuscript illuminator, Maisner brings together materials and design in unexpected ways. He engages texts from diverse, sometimes surprising sources (Kierkegaard, Nin, Kafka, and Heraclitus, to name just a few) and arrives at a vibrant compositional and scribal expression strongly rooted in the past but conveyed with a fresh contemporary visual vocabulary. Maisner's simultaneous search for meaning through his art takes him in the direction of the infinite, of opposites, of things mystical and unanswerable. The result is stunning works of art that are ravishing in their beauty and intriguing in their mystery. 

More recently Maisner has made a foray into social calligraphy, creating elaborately embellished styles of writing for clients including Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, and Sir Elton John. He is also on-call for Hollywood; his hands have played Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow, Daniel Day Lewis in Age of Innocence and Sean Connery in Finding Forrester.

Bernard Maisner, The object of faith (detail), 1980. Collection of Helen Du Bois.

  Bernard Maisner
  "The object of faith . . . "
  (Søren Kierkegaard) 
  gold leaf, watercolor, egg tempera
     and sand on paper
  15.5 x 22.5 in
  collection of Helen Du Bois


The writers I work with love life, love the mystery and love the opportunity of living. Passion is everywhere. Questions of infinity, endlessness, beginnings, endings, emotion and intellect abound. Unity, opposites and paradoxes fascinate me.

Bernard Maisner

Celebrating a generous gift

Long-time visitors to MOCRA may recall that in 1998, MOCRA organized an exhibition of Maisner's work titled Entrance to the Scriptorium that traveled nationally to five venues. That exhibition was made possible through significant financial support and loans of artwork from Peter and Helen Du Bois. Helen recalls that they enjoyed exploring the New York galleries together, and discovered Maisner's work at the Cavin Morris Gallery. According to Helen, they both were "immediately impressed with the intricacy and beauty of Bernard's works. Peter seemed always to be drawn to artists who expressed some kind of spiritual feeling. This is certainly true of Bernard's works."

Peter Du Bois died in March 2015. Later that year, Helen donated to MOCRA six of Maisner's large-scale paintings, which the artist describes as "giant miniatures." We are pleased to display these works, alongside a number of smaller scale works by the artist, also from the Du Bois collection. MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey, SJ, notes that, "Through this exhibition we wish to thank Helen for her generous gift, and honor Peter's memory."

Bernard Maisner, The way up is the way down, 1993. MOCRA collection.


Bernard Maisner
"The way up is the way down." (Heraclitus) 
ioil, ink, mulberry paper and
   damar on canvas
72 x 96 in
MOCRA collection
a gift of Helen Du Bois in honor of her husband Peter Du Bois


Additional links

Bernard Maisner website

Bernard Maisner: Entrance to the Scriptorium exhibition

Steven Heller interviews Bernard Maisner for AIGA

Bernard Maisner interviewed for "The Art of
Craftsmanship Revisited"

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

Related events

"The Hand Acts Out a Joyous Dance"
Celebrating the Art of Bernard Maisner

April 2, 2017   1:30 p.m.

A panel discussion featuring artist Bernard Maisner, reflecting on his sources, techniques, and inspirations.

More information 

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First Fridays in Grand Center

February 3, March 3     5 - 9 p.m.

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