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Classicism and Exile
The Life and Work of Marcel Salinas
March 20 through May 2, 2014
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Marcel Salinas (1913-2010)

The artist Marcel Salinas was born in Alexandria in 1913 of a French mother and an Italian father. He received an education befitting a member of the Alexandrian elite, traveling extensively and studying law in Aix-en-Provence. However, his real passion was painting, and early twentieth century Alexandria had a number of studios where a young person with artistic leanings could hone their talent under the guidance of expatriate European artists.

Salinas spent his early adult years between France and Egypt. He exhibited frequently at the Alexandria Atelier alongside Egyptian artists such as Mahmud Said and Muhammad Nagi. From the 1940s, Salinas developed a long-standing relationship with the French painter and theorist André Lhote. He defended Lhote’s ideas in an article in the francophone Egyptian magazine Valeurs in 1945. In it, he praised Lhote’s commitment to technique as a means for freeing personal expression, expounded on Lhote’s idea of the necessity for artists to exercise self-critique by constant reference to old masters, and reiterated Lhote’s commitment to painting as a humanizing force.

Salinas carried these elements of Lhote’s teaching with him throughout his career. Those who knew him well remember him as an astute and compelling critic, always ready to pause in front of a painting and discuss at length the visual choices made by the artist. Salinas was simply enamored with painting, old and new. To him, the same basic principles continued to hold true throughout the ages: painting was about form, color, and technique. It required hard work and hard looking.

After the 1952 Egyptian revolution, exiled in Paris and desperate for money, Salinas got a job in a lithography workshop. He rapidly became an expert in the medium. He brought to lithography the same passion and rigor that were the mark of his painting. In 1969, he began a collaboration with Pablo Picasso. Salinas created a lithographic rendition of Picasso’s series of paintings, 29 Portraits Imaginaires. Published by the Editions Cercle d’Art, they would receive the Picasso’s whole-hearted approval.

Salinas continued to paint throughout the last decades of his life, spent between Paris and New York, and between Brussels, Belgium and St Louis, Missouri. His prolific output as a painter falls mostly into three categories: landscapes, nudes, and still-lives. While he toyed at various times in his life with different stylistic paradigms, including those of cubism and fauvism, ultimately, Salinas’ commitment was to the poetry of light, color, and form as they were brought to bear on the representation of people, places, and objects. Salinas died in 2010.

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