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Yves Klein in flight with St Rita

· On 22 May the Church remembers the cloistered nun of Cascia canonized by Pope Leo XIII ·

The 22nd of May is the Feast of St Rita: a very popular saint, especially for her well known power of  miraculous intercession. Few know that she was connected in a special way to one of the most important artists of his time, Yves Klein. The French painter offered her a marvellous ex-voto – a box of plexiglass coloured  gold, pink and blue, containing a  scroll in which Klein dedicates all of his artistic energy to the saint – for he felt particularly close to her.  This was not only because in a little church in Nice close to his family's house where there was a statue of the celebrated saint, but probably because he was fascinated with miraculous power as well as nocturnal flight.
For the painter, enchanted by the colour blue and by the idea of flight – as shown by the fact that he himself was photographed  while trying to fly from a window in a suburb of Paris -  the saint was a particularly appealing and sacred reference.
This saint must have enjoyed  the artist's tribute because, several decades after his premature death, the house from which Klein flew was sold, and in his area a church was built dedicated to St Rita, seemingly without any connection to the story of the painter. But behind Klein's artistic search there was a strong spiritual tension which can be understood by his original path, an evolution towards the immaterial, the architecture of air, perceived through an impalpable sensibility. This understanding of the immaterial comes through colour, especially blue. Klein wrote, “I was shocked in Assisi, in the Basilica of St Francis, by the meticulously monochromatic, uniform and blue frescoes, which I believe can be attributed to Giotto”.
It is a path which explains Klein himself in the writings of the book Verso l’immateriale dell’arte (Milan, O barra O,  2009) which reveals the deep  meaning of his decisions: from the monochromatic phase to the search for that special kind of blue which would eventually be named after him to the abandonment of  immaterial pictorial dimensions: “now I want to exceed art, exceed sensibility, exceed life, I want to arrive at emptiness”. An emptiness which he strove to achieve with his attempt to fly: “I am the painter of space. Not an abstract painter, but on the contrary, a figurative one and a realist. Let's be honest,  in order to paint space, I have to go there, in  this same space”. Thus, Klein makes us see the hidden depth behind the seemingly prosaic veil of a very popular saint, he makes us understand something of the mystery that is behind the story of every saint.




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 16, 2019