Tag: Biblical Figures

Artist and Mystic Experience

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Artist and Mystic Experience

Now these are precisely the points of view which the teacher of religion also is constantly seeking to induce. He too calls people from their pursuits and practical ambitions to enjoy the communions of the spirit. He also summons men to leave off for a moment their doing that they may devote themselves to seeing. He also is persuaded of the inadequacy of mere thinking, claiming the possibility of a more nearly immediate experience of reality.

If this is anything like the truth, it is a strange thing that the professional schools for priests and prophets abundantly supply instruction that is intellectual and moral while very meagerly offering any tutelage of the imagination or any instruction in the discipline and development of the emotional career or in the technique whereby the minister of religion may become a proficient master in these areas. This will one day be changed so that every trained leader of religion will be more aware of the universal hunger for beauty and more capable of utilizing this almost unlimited asset for the religious ends of his task.

We are accustomed to thinking that the world of religion is willing to recognize this kinship with the world of the arts more readily than is the critic of the arts. The contrary is true. One is more likely to find the language of religion in the writings of the art world than to discover an equal intelligence amongst religious writers concerning the critique of the arts. When Bernard Bosanquet says that “the mind of man has its own necessity, which weaves its great patterns on the face of the whole world. And in these patterns–the pattern of life itself–the fullest feeling finds embodiment,” he is discussing the impulse and the necessity of the artist toward the same experience as the mystic.

Artist and Mystic Experience

William Temple in discussing some of the noblest works of art, writes: “In the presence of such transcendent Beauty, we realize the hope of mysticism. In a single impression we receive what absolutely satisfies us, and in that perfect satisfaction we ourselves are lost. Duration vanishes; the Now these are precisely the points of view which the teacher of religion also is constantly seeking to induce. He too calls people from their pursuits and practical ambitions to enjoy the communions of the spirit. He also summons men to leave off for a moment their doing that they may devote themselves to seeing. He also is persuaded of the inadequacy of mere thinking, claiming the possibility of a more nearly immediate experience of reality.

If this is anything like the truth, it is a strange thing that the professional schools for priests and prophets abundantly supply instruction that is intellectual and moral while very meagerly offering any tutelage of the imagination or any instruction in the discipline and development of the emotional career or in the technique whereby the minister of religion may become a proficient master in these areas. This will one day be changed so that every trained leader of religion will be more aware of the universal hunger for beauty and more capable of utilizing this almost unlimited asset for the religious ends of his task.

We are accustomed to thinking that the world of religion is willing to recognize this kinship with the world of the arts more readily than is the critic of the arts. The contrary is true. One is more likely to find the language of religion in the writings of the art world than to discover an equal intelligence amongst religious writers concerning the critique of the arts. When Bernard Bosanquet says that “the mind of man has its own necessity, which weaves its great patterns on the face of the whole world. And in these patterns–the pattern of life itself–the fullest feeling finds embodiment,” he is discussing the impulse and the necessity of the artist toward the same experience as the mystic.

William Temple in discussing some of the noblest works of art, writes: “In the presence of such transcendent Beauty, we realize the hope of mysticism. In a single impression we receive what absolutely satisfies us, and in that perfect satisfaction we ourselves are lost. Duration vanishes; the’moment eternal’ is come. The great drama proceeds; the music surges through us; we are not conscious of our own existence. We hear and see; and when all is done, we consider and bow the head.”S * He is writing as an art critic but in the language of religion. Again in discussing one of the lectures of Mr. Arthur Balfour, he writes: “The past and the future vanish; space itself is forgotten: whether or not mysticism is, as Mr. Balfour fears, the only possible philosophy of art, it is beyond question that the aesthetic experience is a purely mystical experience; that is to say, it is the direct and immediate apprehension of an absolutely satisfying object.”

I have somewhere read in a writing of Archdeacon Freemantle, the following: “Art becomes a binding link between men and draws them together toward God. It forms a society which must properly be called a Church. Its yearning toward the ideal is worship, a prayer. The sharing in artistic impressions is a genuine form of worship. It is destined to occupy no mean place in the full redemption of human life.”

The religious feelings relate to life as a whole. They are the response of man to the presently realized existence of divinity. They reach out to grasp the Universal and the Absolute. The feeling for beauty is usually not universal. But it is a feeling for being, for that which has existence. Every work of art says, Notice this fact, this bit of life: be a lover of life as you see it here. Religion says, Be a lover of Life as a Whole, God’s Life, love God. There is a profound identity of attitude between these two.

Religion is not merely thinking and feeling, it is also right doing. The moral issues of religion are ever the concern of healthy human life. We will have nothing to do with a religion which is ineffective in the practical world or weak in its increasing enthusiasm for a thoroughgoing application of its ideals to every phase of life, industrial and political as well as personal. These are the vast problems of the hour. We shall have no future religion at all if they are not manfully and courageously handled.

It is too commonly assumed that at this point the arts must part company with religion. Many have felt that to be interested in Beauty while the world is suffering from inhumanity is an ignoble thing. Unfortunately, both the conduct of artists in general and many critics of the arts have tended to foster such a view. Mr. Merton Stark Yewdale sets forth a correct note on the expressive desire of the aesthetic experience and then completely spoils the picture by separating that experience from practical life.

“We have a sensation of an enhanced power, a compelling desire to rid ourselves of a certain state of tension, eagerness to reciprocate the force which the artist exerts toward us.”So far so good. Then something extremely bad: “As our faculties are again assembled we see once more that life is the great delusion and Art the supreme counter-agent to existence.”

How could anyone write that who had ever read Emerson’s “Compensation”? There are in fact no real barriers between the world of Art Life and the world of Common Life. The artist marks off a bit of the world and harmonizes it and sees that it is good or beautiful. Religion rises to see that all creation is good. It will admit no barriers. It would glorify all life.

The very nature of artistry is activity. Works of art are described as creations. Whatever may be said about the appreciation of Beauty, art is the production of Beauty. Artistry is expression, release, liberation, outgoing effort, authorship, origination. Its results are not called thoughts of art or feelings of art but works of art.

And the artist not only creates new forms of material beauty but also new persons. The very essence of the thing that happens to people when they are impressed by beauty, either of nature or of art, is increased vitality. They are literally remade, increased in strength of body and strength of mind.

Still a third practical effect of the artist’s work is the result in the world of the enhanced power developed in the aesthetic experience. This is the point least clearly intimated by writers on the subject, and denied by many. It is the point of disagreement with Mr. Yewdale. Even Professor Hocking in his profound discussion of art and religion in the volume, “Human Nature and Its Remaking,” does not sufficiently get away from his suggestion that the world of art is an arena in which man may make his conquests more easily than in the world of fact.

“Art is the region which man has created for himself, wherein he can find scope for unexpressed powers, and yet win an absolute success, in testimony of his own reality… It has but feeble contact with the more pressing problems of the ‘common man.’ It fits no one for dealing with the as yet unharmonized aspects of experience. Its tendency would be to seclude itself, build for itself high garden walls, and in the midst of a world small enough to be perfectly controlled, forget the ugly, the squalid, the disordered, the just causes for warfare and rebellion.”

There are undoubtedly many facts which bear out this view. And with the facts coincides the oft-repeated description of the experience of beauty as being a feeling of power coupled with the paradoxical feeling of repose, a sense of great energy but of no demand to exercise it. The aesthetic moment is by everyone described as the moment of perfect satisfaction.

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The Sensational Character of Art

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The Sensational Character of Art

The first force of a work of art is its appeal to the senses. This is direct and immediate. It is the physical effect, almost utterly unescapable whenever there is presented to anyone a vigorous composition in color or in tone or a strong rhythm of song or of motion.

Religion which has disdained the arts as sensuous has not, therefore, escaped sensationalism. It has developed the sensational preacher. He is the man who preaches for a sensuous effect. He has greater success usually in getting people to come to hear what he has to say than in having something worth while to say when they get there. This is not always true but it is so very commonly. Our most thoughtful ministers, those under whose preaching the more serious-minded people desire to sit, are little given to sensational preaching.

Their form is good form but it is not nowadays florid, overly dramatic, or eccentric form. They touch upon timely themes of the day, not as advertising captions but for real discussion. Your true and proper sensationalist develops rhetoric, gesture, perhaps even hair cuts, newspaper themes, and peculiar exercises calculated to rouse interest and produce a momentary enjoyment or excitement.

Sensationalism is necessary for religion, but not this kind. I would rather that my boys should be appealed to by the noble sensationalism of excellent paintings, brilliant music, and noble ritual than by the sensationalism of an evangelist crawling about on all fours like a bear show.

The Sensational Character of Art

However much we may desire to spiritualize our religion, we are not disembodied spirits, we are compact together of flesh and spirit– “Nor soul helps flesh more now, than flesh helps soul.”

Our view of human nature and of the bodily life is very different from that of the Reformation theology. Our new utilization of the fine arts is to be based upon the new psychology and upon the new theology rather than upon Calvinism.

The impulses of the flesh may develop downward. But also every human instinct may become the root of a possible spiritual virtue. If our task is still partly to mortify the flesh, it is also to understand it and use it for good. If spirtual experience is an incorporeal thing, its beginning is usually something born in the mystery of the bodily being. We do not have the same reasons for fearing the arts that the Puritan had, as he did not have our reasons for using them.

Sensationalism has always been deep and constant in human life and in religion and always will be during the life of earth. The Hebrew prophets not only used abundant imagery in speech but actual physical objects and eccentricities of conduct to capture attention and press home their message. It seems questionable whether Jesus performed his works of healing for this purpose, but hardly questionable that his approach to the city on the Day of Palms was a form of sensational appeal. It may be said of it, as it may be said of other sensational conduct, that it was done for effect. Precisely so, for that is the way to be effective.

Our modern church has rather too little than too much of appeal to the senses. It is not sufficiently interesting or sufficiently thrilling. I do not at all object to the sensational methods of the orator or of the evangelist in their proper place. But the sensational preacher should not be the pastor and teacher of a normal church, large or small. That form of appeal to the senses is in the long run neither so effective nor so beneficial as quieter forms–music, decoration, architecture, and liturgy. The oratorical type may be more thrilling at the moment but less lasting than the rhythms set going by the finer arts.

The older religions all make more effective use of the noble and more commendable forms of appeal to the senses. One would not expect to get the following testimony from a modern free churchman, but here it is: “The Japanese know how to produce effects, they have a sure instinct as to the moods in which a person should stand before a temple or shrine. Hence they study the approaches to their sacred spots almost as much as they do the elaboration of the spots themselves. The Shintoists have their torii or more likely lines of torii before each shrine; the Buddhists love to place their houses of worship and meditation in the midst of great trees or on the tops of hills which they approach by moss-covered staircases of stone…

When one has removed his shoes and penetrated to’ the inner shrine and stands on the soft matted floor before the image of the Great Buddha, the subtle power of idolatry when wedded to high art becomes apparent in an unmistakable way. The sense of solemnity, of quietness, of peace is in the very air, and there comes to one a new sympathy toward those who know only this way of consolation.” These beautiful and skillful arrangements are planned for their direct and immediate effect upon the senses and they are effective.

Nor would one naturally expect the testimony written by one of the most distinguished New England clergymen of the nineteenth century, a leader and representative of the best thought of his day. Dr. Theodore Munger describes the cathedrals and cathedral services of the English Church. And then he adds: “Here lies the secret of public worship; we do not worship because we feel like it, but that we may feel.

The feeling may have died out under the pressure of the world, but coming together from mere habit, and starting on the level of mere custom, we soon feel the stirring of the wings of devotion, and begin to rise heavenward on the pinnacles of song and prayer. This is well understood in England, and underlies the much criticised ‘Cathedral system.’ Here is a mighty fact tremendously asserted; it forces a sort of inevitable reverence, not the highest and purest indeed, but something worth having. It becomes the conservator of the faith, and in the only way in which it can be conserved, through the reverent sentiment and poetry of our nature… The main value of the established church is its lofty and unshaken assertion of the worth of worship–keeping alive reverence, which is the mother of morality, and furnishing a public environment for the common faith.

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Religion Art: Adam, Eve and That Famous Apple

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Religion Art: Adam, Eve and That Famous Apple

Apart from narrative images, portraits of Adam and Eve are not common. Those one does find are likely to be nude sculptures of the first parents in their prelapsarian state – attractive young adults, as in the statues at right or this one from Notre-Dame de Paris or this willowy Eve at Autun.

Narrative images are seen in six different categories as follows.

The Creation of Adam and Eve

In the first account of creation God makes “man” in his image and likeness, “male and female” (1:26-31). In the second Adam is created from mud and Eve from Adam’s rib (2:7, 21-22).

The creation of Adam is seen in some Genesis sequences, for example the reliefs on the façade of Orvieto Cathedral and the mosaic sequence at the cathedral in Monreale, Sicily. We see the creation of Eve as early as a 4th-century Roman sarcophagus, where she is created by one of the earliest images of the Trinity. In the sarcophagus relief Eve is already standing by the side of the sleeping Adam, but later works such as the 12th-century mosaics at Monreale Cathedral and Palermo’s Palatine Chapel and the reliefs on the 14th-century façade of Orvieto Cathedral all show her emerging from Adam’s ribcage or torso.

Eve’s creation seems to be a more popular subject than Adam’s. In a 13th-century Swiss manuscript page with a medallion for each day of creation, the sixth day has God creating a human who is almost certainly Eve.

In modern illustrations the Creator will often be an old man with a beard, but in all the images mentioned here he is visualized as the Son, not the Father. The Son, who was to become incarnate as the man Jesus, is the “Word” of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God and the Word was God.… And the Word was made flesh.” At least as early as the 2nd century Christian writers extended this to imply that it was the Son who interacted with Adam and Eve in the garden, and the artists followed this cue.1

Religion Art: Adam, Eve and That Famous Apple

The Fall of Man

In Genesis 3:1-8 the serpent persuades Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God had forbidden. Eve then gives some of the fruit to Adam and they immediately realize they are in big trouble. From the earliest times Christian writers identified the serpent with what Revelation 12:9 calls “that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world.”

The iconography of this narrative is exemplified in the second picture at right. This iconographic type has been in use since at least the 4th-century and has experienced little change. The couple stand on either side of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with Adam usually on the left. The serpent coils around the trunk of the tree, which carries fruit. Eve will be variously reaching for the fruit, taking it, and/or passing some to Adam. The couple is sometimes shown completely naked when they take the fruit, as stated in Genesis 2:24 and illustrated in the second picture at right. But most artists either pose them so as to preserve modesty (example) or simply neglect to include the genitalia (example).

Before the Gothic era the serpent was just a generic snake, but in the mid-12th century Peter Comestor wrote that there is a certain species of serpent that has the face of a young girl, and that Satan had chosen to use that kind of serpent to beguile Eve because “like heeds like.”3 This claim was repeated by subsequent commentators, the putative species acquired a name (“Draconcopedes”), and by the early 13th century female faces started to appear on the serpent.4 The earliest may be this relief at Amiens. By the 14th and 15th centuries they become quite common (example). The most illustrious example is Michelangelo’s panel on the Temptation in the Sistine Chapel.

God Confronts the Couple and Expels from Paradise

After they eat the fruit the couple realize they are naked and make themselves garments of fig leaves. These are almost always represented as single leaves covering the genitals, as in the third picture at right, where we see God confront them. The confrontation is less common in the art than the actual expulsion from Eden, in which God “cast out Adam; and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims and a flaming sword turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). The images usually have an angel do the casting out, as in the fourth picture at right. That picture also portrays the “garments of skins” (3:21) that God made for the couple. These vary in the art, sometimes taking the form of shaggy tunics as at right and sometimes more leather-like as in this sarcophagus relief.

The fourth picture at right portrays a Cherub in addition to the angel, but that is much less common in the art.

The Assignment of Labors

As part of their punishment God tells Adam he will have to work to eat: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (3:19). The point is repeated a few verses later: “The Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken” (3:23). In the 8th century Bede commented on 3:19 that the curse of work applied to Eve as well (In Pentateuchum Commentarii, col. 213), and she has always been included in images of God’s assigning labor to mankind.

There have been two ways of looking at the curse. One was to see it as a plain hardship, as in this 12th-century relief where Adam and Eve bend sadly over a little hillock with their hoes, or this mosaic where Eve looks up disconsolately from her spinning. (The stereotypically female task of spinning thread is the one most commonly given to Eve in images of this kind.)

The other way of looking at the curse is to accentuate the positive. Sarcophagi of the 4th century, for example, symbolize the assignment of labor to the couple by showing Adam with a sheaf of wheat and Eve with a lamb (example). The sheaf represents the fruit of Adam’s labor. The lamb refers to the task of spinning, but with an emphasis on the lamb’s closeness to Eve and possibly a reference to the “lamb of God” that will be borne by Eve’s counterpart, Mary. A catacomb painting from the same century seems to show the couple’s progression from wearing animal skins to the more comfortable life that results from the labors God has assigned.

We see this optimism again in the Middle Ages in this example of domestic contentment in Adam’s family and in Bede’s remark that Adam “…was sent out from the paradise of bliss ‘to till the earth,’ that is, to labor in the body and gain for himself the merit to return to life, which is what the name of Paradise signifies, and be able to touch the tree of life and live forever” (ibid., col. 215, my translation). In the early sarcophagi this optimistic emphasis is so strong that the sculptors almost invariably place the sheaf of wheat in the scene of eating the fruit, as in this sarcophagus. There is another sarcophagus that puts both the sheaf and the lamb in the picture.

Adam Pictured at the Crucifixion

Medieval and earlier images of the Crucifixion sometimes include Adam in a coffin below the base of the cross (example). This is to remind the viewer that “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22), a point especially stressed in this manuscript illumination, where Adam holds a chalice to collect the blood falling from Jesus’ body on the cross.

The Anastasis or Harrowing of Hell

In “Anastasis” or “Harrowing of Hell” images the risen Christ rescues the souls of those who were faithful in the years before the Redemption. Adam and Eve are always the first of these. In western images they may be naked (example); in eastern ones they will be clothed (example).

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Baroque Art: Noble subjects, landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes

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Baroque Art: Noble subjects, landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes

Baroque in art and architecture, a style developed in Europe, England, and the Americas during the 17th and early 18th cent. The baroque style is characterized by an emphasis on unity among the arts. With technical brilliance, the baroque artist achieved a remarkable harmony wherein painting, sculpture, and architecture were brought together in new spatial relationships, both real and illusionary, often with spectacular visual effects.

Although the restrained and classical works created by most French and English artists look very different from the exuberant works favored in central and southern Europe and in the New World, both trends in baroque art tend to engage the viewer, both physically and emotionally. In painting and sculpture this was achieved by means of highly developed naturalistic illusionism, usually heightened by dramatic lighting effects, creating an unequaled sense of theatricality, energy, and movement of forms. Architecture, departing from the classical canon revived during the Renaissance, took on the fluid, plastic aspects of sculpture.

Baroque Painting

Painters and sculptors built and expanded on the naturalistic tradition reestablished during the Renaissance. Although religious painting, history painting, allegories, and portraits were still considered the most noble subjects, landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes were painted by such artists as Claude Lorrain, Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem Kalf, and Jan Vermeer.

Caravaggio and his early followers were especially significant for their naturalistic treatment of unidealized, ordinary people. The illusionistic effects of deep space interested many painters, including Il Guercino and Andrea Pozzo. Other baroque painters opened up interior spaces by representing long files of rooms, often with extended views through doors, windows, or mirrors, as in the works of Diego Velázquez and Vermeer.

Color was manipulated for its emotional effects, ranging from the clear calm tones of Nicholas Poussin, to the warm and shimmering colors of Pietro da Cortona, to the more vivid hues of Peter Paul Rubens. A heightened sense of drama was achieved through chiaroscuro in the works of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Carracci and Poussin portrayed restrained feeling in accordance with the academic principles of dignity and decorum. Others, including Caravaggio, Rubens, and Rembrandt depicted religious ecstasy, physical sensuality, or individual psychology in their paintings.

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Religion Art: Adam and Eve After the Expulsion from Paradise

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Religion Art: Adam and Eve After the Expulsion from Paradise

The Renaissance, in the largest sense of the term, is the whole process of transition in Europe from the medieval to the modern order. The Revival of Learning, by which is meant more especially the resuscitated knowledge of classical antiquity, is the most potent and characteristic of the forces which operated in the Renaissance. That revival has two aspects.

In one, it is the recovery of a lost culture; in another, of even higher and wider significance, it is the renewed diffusion of a liberal spirit which for centuries had been dead or sleeping. The conception which dominated the Middle Ages was that of the Universal Empire and the Universal Church. A gradual decadence of that idea, from the second half of the thirteenth century to the end of the fifteenth, was the clearest outward sign that a great change was beginning to pass over the world.

From the twelfth century onwards there was a new stirring of minds, a growing desire of light; and the first large result was the Scholastic Philosophy. That was an attempt to codify all existing knowledge under certain laws and formulas, and so to reconcile it logically with the one Truth; just as all rights are referable to the one Right, that is, to certain general principles of justice. No revolt was implied there, no break with the reigning tendencies of thought. The direct aim of the Schoolmen was not, indeed, to bind all knowledge to the rock of St Peter; but the truth which they took as their standard was that to which the Church had given her sanction.

In the middle of the fourteenth century, when Scholasticism was already waning, another intellectual movement set in. This was Humanism, born in Italy of a new feeling for the past greatness of Rome. And now the barriers so long imposed on the exercise of the reason were broken down; not all at once, but by degrees. It was recognised that there had been a time when men had used all their faculties of mind and imagination without fear or reproof; not restricted to certain paths or bound by formulas, but freely seeking for knowledge in every field of speculation, and for beauty in all the realms of fancy.

Those men had bequeathed to posterity a literature different in quality and range from anything that had been written for at housand years. They had left, too, works of architecture such that even the mutilated remains had been regarded by legend as the work of supernatural beings whom heathen poets had constrained by spells.

The pagan view was now once more proclaimed, that man was made, not only to toil and suffer, but to enjoy. And naturally enough, in the first reaction from a more ascetic ideal, the lower side of ancient life obscured, with many men, its better aspects. It was thus that Humanism first appeared, bringing a claim for the mental freedom of man, and for the full development of his being. But, in order to see the point of departure, it is necessary to trace in outline the general course of literary tradition in Europe from the fifth century to the fourteenth.

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The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

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The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

The Garden of Eden is described in the Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden (Gen. 2:8). This garden forms part of the Genesis creation narrative and theodicy of the Abrahamic religions, often being used to explain the origin of sin and mankind’s wrongdoings. The Archangel Uriel, with his flaming sword, is said to be guarding the Gate to the Garden of Eden.’

The Genesis creation narrative relates the geographical location of both Eden and the garden to four rivers (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates), and three regions (Havilah, Assyria, and Kush). There are hypotheses that place Eden at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates (northern Mesopotamia), in Iraq (Mesopotamia), Africa, and the Persian Gulf. For many medieval writers, the image of the Garden of Eden also creates a location for human love and sexuality, often associated with the classic and medieval trope of the locus amoenus.

The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

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The Unity of Religion and Art

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The Unity of Religion and Art

Art and religion belong together by identities of Origin, Subject Matter, and Inner Experience. Religion and art were one and the same thing before either of them became consciously regarded as a distinct human interest. The principal subject matter of the world’s artistic treasures is religious. The experience of faith and the experience of beauty are in some measure identical.

In these three ways there is displayed the unity of religion and art. I am not here interested to elaborate them, but the numbers of religious leaders who have no interest in the arts, and the numbers of artists who have no participation in the life of definite religion need all to be made aware of these facts.

The beginnings of religion and of art alike lie far back and hidden in the immemorial life of primitive man. In the earliest historic times they were interwoven and no one can say which was first, for they were not two, but one. The painted stick or bunch of feathers which as a fetish was utilized for its magical powers was also in some sense a work of art. The dances and pantomimes of early tribal life were attempts at the magical control of nature or nature divinities. Exercises in frenzy were both religious and artistic, primitive forms of ritual, primitive forms of drama. “This common emotional factor it is that makes art and ritual in their beginnings well-nigh indistinguishable.”

Religion has been historically the great fountain source of art, and the art of worship the mother of all arts. “Ritual and art have, in emotion towards life, a common root, and primitive art develops emotionally, at least in the case of drama, straight out of ritual.”

It is sufficient for our purpose to accept the judgment of anthropologists that in one way or another most of the arts–music, dancing, sculpture, poetry, drama, architecture –were developed out of exercises and objects originally devised for the magical control of divinities, the celebration of seasonal feasts or the production of ecstasy for its own sake or for power in war–all exercises of primitive religion.

“Art will then never arise and develop among men unless it has a foundation in religion. Art absolutely profane in origin, art born to satisfy the aesthetic taste of the spectator, art which seeks for expressiveness rather than for the material utility of its products, even if this be a spiritual utility, is inconceivable in human history and has absolutely never existed.” *

This is perhaps a too sweeping claim, but something very like it is true. An adequate discussion of it would involve a long study not enough pertinent to our present work to make. It is difficult for us with our reflective and analytical habits of mind to throw back our imaginations into the early time when life was just life, single and undivided, without religion or art or any other category as such. It is not impossible that such a unity of experience is a goal ahead of us as well as a forgotten history behind us.

The second consideration in noting the unity of religion and art is the fact that in all human history the principal subject matter of the arts has been religious. “All the art of the human race is essentially religious art; from the Chaldean to the Egyptian, from the Mycenaean to the Greek, from the Assyrian to the pre-Buddhistic Chinese, from the Mexican to the Peruvian, there is no exception.”

The three things which most attract Americans to cross the sea in search of the riches of the old world are the Greek temples and statues, Italian paintings, and Gothic architecture. With a very few exceptions all of these incomparable treasures were created by religion. The histories of the older oriental empires and of Egypt display the same facts. Literary art also, considering the Greek dramas, Dante, and Milton, at its high points if not at its lower, has been chiefly religious.

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The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci

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The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci

The Renaissance artist was a master craftsman with a refined understanding of the materials of his art. The need to learn about materials was one of the reasons for the lengthy apprenticeship of the fledgling artist. Each artist had to master a finite range of substances used in his particular specialty.

He dealt with simple materials used in combination, but because of a lack of knowledge of their chemistry, a good deal of his work was empirical in nature. Much guesswork and many mistakes were part of even the most sublime Renaissance paintings and sculptures, just as they are in the best modern works.

The Renaissance artist’s practical, clear understanding of the nature of his materials was complemented by his marvelous sense of their potential. From their earliest training, artists were taught to think of form and material as being totally fused, parts of a single whole. The great frescoes, panel paintings, and sculptures of the Renaissance are as much about material as they are about form or subject.

When he designed a fresco or a free-standing statue, the artist understood, from long years of experience, that its various forms had to be made a certain way to realize the potential of the chosen material. He knew, for instance, that he could extend a marble arm just so far; he knew that groups of figures in a fresco had to be arranged to allow them to be painted on a series of fresh plaster patches; and he knew all the characteristics of a certain blue pigment he wanted.

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Religious Art: The Holy Trinity and Byzantium’s Earliest Art

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Religious Art: The Holy Trinity and Byzantium's Earliest Art

St. Sophia, an amazing architectural feat in Istanbul was built in 365 and is now a museum housing Byzantine art. Nearby is St Irene, one of Byzantium’s earliest churches built over the pagan temple of Aphrodite. Between St Sophia and the Blue Mosque is the ancient Hippodrome, built 203, an ancient racecourse overlooking the Sea of Marmara.

Close by the Museum of Mosaics shelters a part of the floor of Constantine’s Palace, built of beautiful mosaics. On the promontry formed by the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn is the site of Constantine’s sacred palace, the now famous Topkapi, with Turkish, Chinese and Japanese porcelains. The library holds priceless Arabic and Greek manuscripts; there are the magnificent gold and silver threaded robes of the sultan and the jewels in the Treasury defy all description.

Close to Topkapi are the Museum of Archeology and Museum of Oriental Antiquities. Descend into Yerebatan Sarayi, the Sunken Palace Cistern, ancient vaults upheld by 336 columns. The Suleymaniye and Kaariye Mosques must be seen. Close to the Erdine Gate, are remnants of Blackernae Palace. Accross the Galata Bridge, the white marble Baroque palace of Dolmabahce stands. Istanbul’s skyline is shaped by over 400 mosques. The biggest and best are grouped in the old city of Eminonu. The Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmet, built in the 17th century is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets.

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Michelangelo and The Creation of Adam

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Michelangelo and The Creation of Adam

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, b. Caprese, Tuscany.

Early Life and Work

Michelangelo drew extensively as a child, and his father placed him under the tutelage of Ghirlandaio, a respected artist of the day. After one unproductive year, Michelangelo became the student of Bertoldo di Giovanni, a sculptor employed by the Medici family. From 1490 to 1492, Michelangelo lived with the Medicis; during this time he learned from such philosophers as Ficino, Landino, Poliziano, and Savonarola.

Although Michelangelo claimed that he was self-taught, one might perceive in his work the influence of such artists as Leonardo, Giotto, and Poliziano. He learned to paint and sculpt more by observation than by tutelage. Michelangelo was known to be extremely sensitive, and he combined an excess of energy with an excess of talent.

Sculpture

Michelangelo’s earliest sculpture was made in the Medici garden near the church of San Lorenzo; his Bacchus and Sleeping Cupid both show the results of careful observation of the classical sculptures located in the garden. His later Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs and Madonna of the Stairs reflect his growing interest in his contemporaries. Throughout Michelangelo’s sculpted work one finds both a sensitivity to mass and a command of unmanageable chunks of marble. His Pietà places the body of Jesus in the lap of the Virgin Mother; the artist’s force and majestic style are balanced by the sadness and humility in Mary’s gaze.

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