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Past Exhibitions - Bernard Langlais Abstract Wood Reliefs

Bernard Langlais Abstract Wood Reliefs

Bernard Langlais (1921-1977) was born in Old Town, Maine. Although he had no formal artistic training in high school, he decided on a career as an artist from a young age. After six years of naval service during World War II, he attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington and received a scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, an event that changed his focus from commercial to fine art. Skowhegan gave him a scholarship to the Brooklyn Museum School, where he studied with the famed German Expressionist painter Max Beckmann. In the early 1950s Langlais traveled to Paris to study at the Académie de la Grand Chaumiére and received a Fulbright Fellowship to study the works of Edvard Munch in Norway.

Langlais’ experiments with wood began in 1956, when he returned from Norway and bought a summer cottage in Cushing, Maine. During renovations to the cottage, he rebuilt an interior wall by piecing together scraps of wood. Langlais found the work invigorating and inspiring, and continued to create abstract wall reliefs that he showed to great acclaim in New York throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. These seminal works seem to unify a serial use of wood elements with discreet uses of color. The works celebrate their process of construction. Works from this series were included in the important assemblage exhibition New Forms — New Media at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1960, as well as a solo exhibition at the ground-breaking Leo Castelli Gallery in 1961. While he continued to develop his technique in what he called “painting in wood,” figurative imagery began to dominate his work. By the time Langlais moved to Maine full-time in 1966, he was making room-sized wall reliefs, which soon grew into monumental statues that still populate the yard around his home in Cushing. He died in 1977, leaving a lasting legacy in the arts of his native state.


Bernard Langlais
Around Four, ca. 1959-1962
Wood relief


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The University of Maine - University of Maine Museum of Art - Bernard Langlais Abstract Wood Reliefs