VISIONARY REVUE



Chapelle Fortin:
The Triumph of Man - 1927

THE CHAPEL OF THE RESURRECTED


      In 1928, Kalmakoff undertook one of his crowning achievements. The author Héliodore Fortin commissioned him to create a series of twenty-four paintings that, together, would comprise the interior of a chapel. Thus, Fortin's Chapel of the Resurrected was conceived. One of Fortin's books, The Bible of Spirits, would partly inspire the esoteric vision manifest in these paintings.




      Around the chapel a series of demons appear: some black-skinned, one with serpentine legs (Abraxas?), another with tree branches for legs. These mysterious beings are enhaloed and crowned (like human candles) with a flame over their heads. And above each of them also appears a most enigmatic letter or cypher.



 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2004


Chapel Dedicated to Joan of Arc:
The Triumph of Joan of Arc - 1930

      Other images are nightmarish in conception, such as the Rat with a Mouthful of Gold (1927). Meanwhile, the faces of the Pharaoh (1927) or the Inca Kingsadd a more ancient spiritual dimension.
      The central figure of the chapel (opposite) is mesmerizing and majestic. He sits enthroned upon a rainbow, holding the world in one hand and pointing outward with the other. His blue flaming eyes and red wavy hair are framed by a trianglular aureole crowned with twelve flames. More of the mysterious cyphers appear: one in each of the flames, and twelve more in sparkling lights around him. These, stranger still, correspond to the cyphers above the heads of each demon.
      This incredible ensemble of paintings was only rediscovered in Metz (France) in 1964. Their strange iconography has yet to be interpreted.

CHAPEL OF SAINTE JOAN OF ARC

      Three years later, Kalmakoff undertook a new commission: to paint a chapel dedicated to Jeanne d'Arc. As the patron saint of France, Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920 in recognition of the spiritual aid and courage she brought to the French during the First World War. It was a subject to which Kalmakoff was eminently suited. The artist executed one large painting (The Triumph of Joan of Arc - 1930 above), then began another (Joan Before her Judges - c 1931 below) and also drew the cartoon for a detailed diptych (Joan at the Stake- 1931). But, for reasons unknown, the project was abandoned.
      The unfinished Joan Before her Judges (left) remains valuable because it preserves signs of Kalmakoff's oil technique. A methodical worker, he painted each figure a la prima and directly from the underdrawing (leaving the most important figures until last).
      Mgebrov remembers that "like the old masters, he never bought his colours but prepared them himself from plants and herbs, researching their permanence to bring a certain perenniality to his works - so that he could survive the ages. Like the painters of old, he had his original and very solitary way of doing things." (KAL 20)
      This may explain why much of the fleshtone in his works has taken on a greenish tinge, exactly as one sees in Byzantine icons, particularly of the Early Italian School.

 
 
 


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