Maria Lassnig considered every detail in her paintings: instead of writing “Mesnerleute“ as the orthographically correct version, she doubled the letter “s” causing an ambivalent meaning. Mesner (sacristans) are in charge of a church or a sacristy. However, Messner recalls the words: Messe (mass) or Messer (knife). The doubleportrait figures Christian and Lisa Resch who worked as sacristans in Freistritz / Carinthia. Maria Lassnig befriended the couple for many years and selected them as a model for a number of her works. What attracted her? Was it their regional rooting or their deep familiarity?
„First I paint the people and only then the surroundings, if at all. I give birth to them onto the blank canvas, into emptiness.“ (Maria Lassnig)
Lassnig painted no beauties; she painted inner relations, the person’s personality or in other words the individual itself. Figures were set up freely in space on unprimed canvas as if cut out and only representing themselves without the touch of manipulation. Her almost rough brushwork and shapes focus on the entire message not on details. Lassnig has a feeling for the power of colour. But rarely has her sensibility for colour reached such an extent as in the monochrome red of the man in contrast to the pastel tones used in the same painting.
The brush gently follows the contours and in the same instant it creates contrasting colours which break up the harmony. By means of her painting technique the artist expresses the couple’s tenderness and clumsiness as well as their deep intimacy and uncertainty. A kid complements the image of the couple, which is not as common as a child. The image thus gains in originality or one may say in archaic or even mythic relation.
The double portrait “Die Mesnerleute“ by Maria Lassnig is one of the outstanding portraits of her late work combining subtle emotional gestures with the rejection of the static tendencies of traditional portraiture.
The painting will be auctioned in the „Contemporary Art“ -Auction on 6 December 2017.
Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, Auktionshaus im Kinsky