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IMITATION OF CHRIST

((Excerpt from, "The Art Of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal"))

 

"His hair was white as wool or snow, and his eyes penetrated like flames of fire.  His feet gleamed like burnished bronze, and his voice thundered like the waves against the shore.” Revelation 1:14-15 

He's the most respected, reviled, controversial and praised figure in human history.  Jesus Christ.

For centuries, artists have offered us their interpretations of the man the Holy Bible calls the Messiah, the Son of God.

I’ve seen many paintings, drawings and sculptures of Christ, but two, no, three recent discoveries have moved me to write about them.  In all cases, two old, one new, the artists have created truly inspired work.

Spanish Baroque Painter Francisco de Zurbaran's, "The Crucifixion," is the most stunning painting of Christ that I've ever seen.  I saw it at the Art Institute of Chicago.  It dates back to 1627 and depicts Christ as a lean, Caucasian male, arms outstretched and lightly draped.  He's been neatly, yet brutally nailed to the cross.  His body glows against the dark, dramatic background that Zurbaran has created.  He went for drama and got it.  I almost felt like I should drop to my knees while looking at it.  Truly remarkable.

"The Mocking of Christ," by Gerrit Van Honthorst is another inspired work.  It dates back to 1617-1620.  I saw this piece in a gallery of Dutch masterworks at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  It was hanging on a wall between two Rembrandt portraits.  Rembrandt always makes me stop, look and listen, but not like this discovery.  I couldn't believe the beautiful shadowing and light and the elegant brown and golden tones.  He's depicted as a king on a dubious throne, with a crown of thorns on his head. 

The way Christ is beautified, yet simultaneously reviled by men jeering at him, holding fire in his face, is stunning.  Just exquisite.  Also, anyone who doesn't believe in the power of framing should look at this painting.  It has the most beautiful brown, wooden, modern frame I've ever seen.   I can't imagine feeling any more privileged than I did when I basked in the glow of this great painting.  It's the reason why I feel so compelled to write about the art that I see.

Fast-forward more than 300 years.   

The other, more modern rendition of Christ that strikes me comes from Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.  I saw it at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.  And man, was I blessed!  I saw it literally moments before they began dismantling the exhibition.  Talk about nick of time!  It's an ethereal, multi-paneled, black & white re-creation of "The Last Supper."  Silver-gelatin prints. 

What strikes me about this piece is how hip and modern it appears.  Of course, it was done in 1999, so I guess it would be.  Christ is looking right at you and you feel this sense of conviction, yet comfort at the same time.  A closer view gives you this sense of the surreal.  Like the Zurbaran piece, it's dark and dramatic, yet dreamy and very elegant.

Which, of course, raises the question ... What did Christ actually look like?  No one alive today knows for sure.  However, one of the many things that I love about Christ is the fact that he’s there for everyman … everyone. 

We get so caught up in what people “look” like.  Close your eyes and see him for yourself.  Through art, he looks different to different artists and through life, he looks different to different people.  Yet he’s always the same … the same source of inspiration for everyone.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Shouldn’t THAT be the point?  

 

Communion

Let Us Adore Him - Heritage Christian Church                       

                                 

 



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