Mansouroff is known for his non-objective individualist painting. The beginnings of Mansouroff are not well documented except for that he attended the Stieglitz School (1909, St. Petersburg), which was then known for its design classes. It is in this context that the precision of drawing itself anchored in him, with a particular interest in the properties of lines and of the form that have continued to fascinate him throughout his career.
Mansouroff's contribution to the Russian Avant-Garde is a totally non-objective art using elongated vertical surfaces to explore questions of space and their spatial correlation. The vertical surfaces, usually a wooden support, were used as a monochromatic surface subtly and accurately modeled by the line.
Mansouroff, who called his works pictorial formulas, exercised an attentive and almost scientific examination of the artist's methods. A strict economy was applied to the work, stripping it of its essential components. Mansouroff was not interested in the representation of form in a painting, but in the concept of the art object as a physical form as such. By painting both sides of his supports, he explored the spatial possibilities of painting as an autonomous unit. He viewed the vertical format as the embodiment of these issues.
From 1917, Mansouroff was in close contact with many leading figures of the Russian Avant-Garde, including Malevich, Tatlin, Filonov and Matushin. Although his methodology seems to reflect the influence of Matouchin's experiences through visual perception, he was not a follower. The individuality of Mansouroff was his salient feature. According to the artist, "the only true art is one that does not repeat the tendencies of the past" he said.
Like many of his colleagues, Mansouroff shared his attention between the production of his art, educational research and teaching. To this end, in 1922, he worked with Malevich, Matouchine, Pounine and Tatlin on the implementation of the Institute of Arts Culture (INKhUK) in Petrograd. The aim of INKhUK was to work on a theoretical approach to art in a communist society. Mansouroff was chief of the experimental section.
In 1928, thanks to Leon Trotsky and his sister, Mansouroff left for Italy with the mission to promote to Europe the work of the Russian Avant-gGarde. He stayed there only a short time before going to Paris in 1929. There, his encounter with Delaunay, the difficulties that non-objective art encountered and his needs for subsistence will direct him to the applied arts in which he could implement his theories. He will make drawings for haute couture fabrics produced by Parisian houses such as Patou, Chanel, Lanvin, Schiapparelli, Bianchini-Ferier, Sulka and Colcombet. However, his meeting with Picasso will shake his certainties on objective art.
He will stay ten years in Paris where, among others, he will realize figurative works including a large number of still lifes. His mother will die on September 27, 1932 and all contact with his homeland, friends and family will be broken. In the early 1930s, most of his early companions disappeared or were arrested.
Thus, Mansouroff decided to settle permanently in France where he deepened the themes of his new pictorial formulas by changing forms in a perpetual search of perfection.
This period is recognized as one of the most productive and interesting of his career. His painting is liberated from all convention, the plastic fact remains the only element of the painting and confirms that the function of the work of art is its only existence.
From the end of the 50s, he made frequent trips to Nice and Saint-Paul de Vence and in 1975, he moved permanently to Nice. He passed away on February 2, 1983.
Beaux-Arts Academy of Petrograd in 1917.
Second starting from the left : Malevich.
At centre, in profil : Mansouroff.
On the walls, didactic works of Malevich and of his students.
Friends of Mansouroff, 1981.
From left to right : Paul Mansouroff, Gilles & Colette de Millo Terrazzani, Lucien Tessarolo and André Verdet.