Jacques Andrian Janvier
It was at this time that two charismatic intellectuals entered the artist’s life. The first of these was artist / photographer Jacques Andrian Janvier, also known as Jacques Lloyd. The second was Rebecca Campbell, a sister of the Holy Order of MANS, a religious order founded in San Francisco by Fr. Earl W. Blighton in 1960. Both Janvier and Campbell would have extensive and ongoing influence on Mulleian’s thinking and creativity, much as others have had before and since. These include author Leonard Roy Frank, Benny Bufano, Thomas S. Szasz, and later, Robert Arbegast and Paul Deegan.
Jacques Janvier first discovered Mulleian’s work at the Frank Gallery in 1970. As artist and photographer, Janvier was of French heritage and had lived for awhile in Paris, Versailles, and the south of France, finding unlimited subject matter for his photography. Janvier was also a high caliber pastel artist and, like Mulleian, a master technician himself. He frequented the gallery over several months, drawn by a strong affinity to Mulleian’s work. Eventually, in 1971, Janvier and Mulleian would meet, becoming lifelong friends and establishing a relationship in which worldviews, political analysis, creative processes and new ideas were shared in an inexhaustible dialogue for over thirty years.
By 1986, Mulleian had completed his painting Dies Irae, after two years of concentrated work. Janvier had been looking forward to viewing Mulleian’s latest piece ever since Mulleian first mentioned his ideas for the work at its inception. Janvier had been so completely enchanted by Mulleian’s technique, (rightly describing it as a lost art
no longer taught in art academies), he even asked the artist if he would teach him to paint.
Came the day for the viewing. The draped painting sat waiting on its easel in the small humble cottage studio on the hill overlooking the beach. Janvier was an imposing figure of a man, given to verbal eloquence on all manner of subjects of the moment. He was an intellectual with an aristocratic demeanor and bearing, as well as a broad-ranging grasp of American and European political history. His grasp of the history of European and American art was extensive and impressive as well, and some found his verbal manner and style to be undeniably intimidating. In all, Janvier was a study in focused, elegant eloquence. This particular day, he arrived with full cargo of topics to discuss, like a three masted schooner in full sail, with no port in sight. But as the drapery dropped and the artist stood aside to show the finished work, he saw the stunned Janvier catapulting backward with the velocity of a cannon ball, hands abreast of temples, eyes wide as onions, landing flatly, back against the cottage door. He was stunned, literally taken aback by the sheer impact of the beauty of the piece. It wasn’t long afterward that Janvier declared: “Mulleian is the New Old Master!”
Nevertheless, for the several months that followed, the trio of friends, Mulleian, Janvier and Arbegast, were at a loss as to what the painting should be called. Then, one summer afternoon, Janvier returned to the studio with his friend Jean Dennell, a notable watercolor artist herself. As it happened, Ms. Dennell’s reaction to the work was virtually the opposite of Janvier’s. Her quietly startled reaction took several minutes to find a voice. She, at first, seemed overwhelmed by the painting’s powerfully dramatic message and technical brilliance. Quietly, gradually, she moved ever closer to the canvas, intensely studying every detail without saying a word. She was overtaken by the piece.
Dennell was and is a deeply spiritual woman who had come from a Catholic background and was most comfortable with the old, traditional Latin Mass. So it was as though she had known the painting’s title before even seeing the canvas. Out of what seemed like the silence of eternity, from under her breath and absolutely without effort, came the words “Dies Irae”. To everyone’s amazement and with a burst of exuberant relief, they suddenly realized the painting’s name.
To this day, nearly thirty three years later and at the age of nearly ninety, Jean Dennell has never forgotten the enormous impact of the work, an impact which hasn’t faded since she first laid eyes upon the artist’s easel, and the painting of the day of wrath, which she named Dies Irae, one sunny afternoon in August of 1987.