lettrine Although it could be said that illumination is a sacred art by definition, nevertheless it can still represent a valuable contemporary source of expression, while at the same time preserving the timelessness of the subject matter and the technique.


lettrine As far as I remember, throughout all my artistic journeys it seems to me that I have scarcely come across other illuminators, and at least none equal to the quality and modernity of Benoit CAZELLES. There is especially a reflectiveness and passion which he displays in communicating his exceptional virtuosity and creative invention, using a technique which we thought we knew all about.

lettrine The letters for example: this Gothic alphabet is superb, the captivating linear form of the letters outlined against a wide variety of geometric backgrounds, imaginative and elegant.
At a time when it is considered acceptable to write like a slob, this work inspires a little hope.
Yet where Benoît CAZELLES displays outstanding finesse, mastery, and use of colours, it is when he dedicates himself to a decorative work, whether religious or poetic in nature, and this he imbues with a strange, unusual and fascinating beauty; his brush releases a flowering of non-figurative or realistic motifs, exploding with light, reflections and vitality.

lettrine Thus, in a glorious and enchantingly magical way, the subjects can be portrayed in jazzy rhythms just as well as in a talented synthesis of ideas, whether they are scenes of nature, creatures of dreams or traditional spiritual figures.


Art Critic

lettrine DDuring the preview to the summer 2000 exhibition at the Abbaye Blanche, I met Benoît Cazelles. He came to show me one of his illuminations. Won over by this, I went to his workshop in Lisieux. After a few meetings I invited Benoît to contribute to the summer 2001 exhibition on the theme of “Unity in the Heart”.

lettrine For this exhibition he created an illumination with 14 different pigments of blue: “ The Cross of Unity * ”. Hung upon the wall at the Abbaye Blanche, it is the most important among the works he presented there.

lettrine BBenoît delights in illumination, a passion that was passed on to him from his Great Uncle Raymond Cazelles. The eminent curator of the Musée Condé at Chantilly, in his “Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry”, introduces us to the prestigious 15th century book of illuminations commissioned by Jean, Duke of Berry.

lettrine Today Benoît Cazelles, pleased to be a contemporary illuminator, continues the tradition. He brings another dimension to illumination : from a miniature to a painting in it’s own right, his works are true masterpieces which invite us to contemplate their beauty.


Exhibition curator

* Presented as a gift to His Holiness the Pope Benedict XVI by Mr J.P. Raffarin, Prime Minister of France, and Mrs Raffarin, on the 24th April 2005.

lettrine An illumination, from the Latin verb “illuminare” meaning to light up, or make luminous, is typically a Mediaeval artform which consists of adorning, with paint or drawing, a handwritten book.


lettrine Benoît Cazelles’ miniatures could well be used to illustrate the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, the source of the greater part of his creations, including “Jonah and the Whale”, “Exodus” or The Crossing of the Red Sea, “Choir of Angels” and “Jacob’s Ladder”, which forms a wonderful diptych with “Reflection“. Benoît handles natural pigments, gum Arabic, and small and delicate paintbrushes with the same patience and dexterity as the master illuminators of the Middle Ages. He has studied their works and reproduced them on many occasions!

lettrine Che young artist chooses to extol the vivid colours of the 13th century; blue, red and gold. In the fascinating work “Bleu, histoire d’une couleur” (Flammarion 2000) Michael Pastoureau, specialist historian of colours, tells us that not until the 13th century did blue become a valued colour, the royal colour, before subsequently becoming the colour associated with Mary, and forming a pair with its opposite colour, red. Throughout the world in the 20th century, children put red at the top of the list of their favourite colours, whereas in the west, adults prefer the more calming and inspiring blue.

lettrine Benoît’s palette incorporates gold, the symbol of light and brightness, and all its warm variants of orange and yellow. His “Snow Queen” shoots up in a brilliant display of blue.


lettrine Benoît Cazelles is also inspired by artists with whom he works alongside on collective exhibitions, especially by Kora—óchi. He combines this with his unique sense of stylization to create his increasingly personal contemporary work.


Curator of the Bibliothèque d’Avranches (50)

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