Mantegna’s Edge

Al Held
1983, On View
Boca Raton Museum of Art

Mantegna’s Edge is a important mural by the pioneering American artist Al Held and is one of only 10 commissioned mural-sized paintings that he created. It is among the finest examples of the complex spatial illusionism and interlocking geometric forms that were to become the artist’s seminal contribution to modern art.

Held transformed simple squares, triangles and circles into a complex, rhythmic spatial composition. The forms overlap and interlock in a dense and penetrable way, creating the visual deception of a deep expansive space. Painted in 1983 in the artist’s New York City studio on one continuous length of 15-foot-wide canvas, Mantegna’s Edge was commissioned for and installed in the lobby of Southland Center, an office building in Dallas, Texas, where it remained until 1991 before being donated to the Boca Museum in 2001.

Held emerged as a leading figure in the second generation of Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s with a distinctive style of work marked by rich color and exploding geometric compositions. In 1981, he won a 6-month residency at the American Academy in Rome, where he was inspired by Italian Renaissance art, specifically its exacting precision of composition and perspective and glowing jewel-like colors. The title, Mantegna’s Edge, refers to the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), an early master of perspective and foreshortening. Like Held, Mantegna carried the art of illusionist perspective to new heights in his day. Mantegna’s trompe l’oeil murals gave the impression of real people within real architecture; just as Held’s mural magnetically pulls the viewer into a seemingly endless vortex.

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Held Montegnas Edge
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Al Held's Mantegna's Edge

Al Held, Mantegna’s Edge, 1983, Acrylic on canvas mounted to wall. Acquired in 1994; Gift of the New York Life Insurance Company.