Remembering Masqueray

| February 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

E. L. Masqueray, third from left, in a studio with unidentified draftsmen and his valet, Purcell Haskins, far left. The image is on display through May in “E. L. Masqueray, Architect” at the University of St. Thomas. From the collection of the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota.

University of St. Thomas shines spotlight on Cathedral, Basilica architect 100 years after his death

Mr. Masqueray was the chosen child of art — the child of art in every throbbing of soul, in every penciling of finger. From his mind and his heart, art sprung as from native fount,” pronounced Archbishop John Ireland during a 1917 funeral liturgy.

He was eulogizing Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, his friend, architect and fellow visionary who had helped him realize the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul and what would eventually be known as the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Masqueray died in May 1917 after an uremic attack he suffered while riding a streetcar to work. He was 55. His funeral Mass was at the Cathedral, his first commission in St. Paul and the beginning of an impressive portfolio of buildings, many of them churches, in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest.

Emmanuel Louis Masqueray

Among them was the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on the campus of the College of St. Thomas, then a Catholic military college for men. He also designed two dormitory buildings — Ireland Hall, built for the college, and Grace Hall, built for the St. Paul Seminary, annexed by the college-turned-university in the 1980s.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the architect’s untimely death, Masqueray’s work at the University of St. Thomas is the subject of an exhibition at the university in conjunction with its annual Sacred Arts Festival. On display in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center lobby are more than 40 objects, including blueprints, architectural renderings and watercolors from Masqueray’s hand. Also on view through May are Masqueray’s drafting tools, a 2016 painting of the Cathedral by local artist Mark Balma, and historic and contemporary photographs of
St. Thomas’ Masqueray buildings.

Like several of Masqueray’s commissions including the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, St. Thomas’ chapel was unfinished at the time of his death. His assistant Edwin Lundie was instrumental in both buildings’ completion. Lundie went on to become a well-regarded architect in his own right, as did Frank Abrahamson and Fred Slifer, Masqueray’s other chief assistants.

Masqueray was born in 1861 in the Normandy region of France and studied architecture at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. A former classmate, John Carrère, recruited him to work for his small firm in New York. Masqueray worked for Carrère and his partner, Thomas Hastings, for five years before joining the office of Richard Morris Hunt, one of the top American architects of his time. Masqueray remained with Hunt’s studio after his death and likely helped Hunt’s son finish New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If you goWHAT: “E. L. Masqueray, Architect,” an exhibition of Masqueray’s work at the University of St. Thomas and beyond.

WHEN: Exhibition on display through May, with a panel discussion and reception 6-8 p.m. March 13. Panel includes Alan Lathrop, Larry Millett, Celeste Raspanti and Johan van Parys.

WHERE: O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium and lobby gallery, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

The exhibition and panel are sponsored by St. Thomas’ Department of Art History as part of the Sacred Arts Festival. They are free and open to the public.

He was commissioned to be chief of design for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where he likely met Archbishop Ireland. The archbishop hoped to replace the Cathedral of St. Paul, then downtown, with a larger one on a hill. In 1905 he opened a competition for architects to submit drawings, but within three months, the competition had been scrapped, and Masqueray was the chosen architect. Beyond his World’s Fair contributions, the Cathedral was the first permanent commission Masqueray landed in his own right.

Soon he had two huge projects, with the addition of the Pro-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception — renamed the Basilica of St. Mary in 1926. He also took on the design of smaller churches, including St. Louis King of France, St. Paul (1909); St. Martin of Tours, Rogers (1912); Holy Redeemer, Marshall (1915); and St. Francis Xavier, Benson (1917). When he died, he was working on Incarnation in Minneapolis.

Informed by his training at the Ecole, Masqueray’s designs included elements pulled from Classical, Renaissance and Baroque styles, with an emphasis on proportion and appropriateness to the building’s use.

Despite the architect’s prominence in St. Paul, there exists no biography or coffee-table collection of his works. The most comprehensive description of his life is the article “A French Architect in Minnesota” historian Alan Lathrop published in 1980 in “Minnesota History,” the Minnesota Historical Society journal.

Retired curator of the Manuscripts Division at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Lathrop will participate in a March 13 panel at St. Thomas on Masqueray’s work, along with architecture writer Larry Millett, Cathedral archivist Celeste Raspanti and Basilica liturgy director Johan van Parys.

Lathrop is also lecturing on Masqueray as part of Musique et Masqueray, which the Rose Ensemble is performing in four Masqueray churches.

“It’s an honor that he would be honored and commemorated at this point, 100 years on,” Lathrop said of Masqueray. “I’m really hoping that … the public becomes more informed about his work, and a greater appreciation of what he did will emerge.”

Wiering holds a master’s degree in art history from the University of St. Thomas and served as the guest curator for the exhibition.

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