Icons: Windows into Heaven



Historically and in the modern era, the religious artwork of the Eastern Christianity, namely the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, is dramatically different from the art that developed in the western Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. The art of the Church began to diverge following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. Prior to then, Christian iconography developed in rough parallel in the east and west.

As the Western Roman Empire disintegrated and was taken over by Goths and others, the art of the Byzantine Empire reached levels of sophistication not seen before in Christian art, and set the standards for the parts of Middle Age Europe still in touch with Constantinople.


Eastern Christian iconography is an ancient art form that art historians trace back to the earliest Christian art found in 3rd century catacombs of Rome. However, as a matter of faith, eastern Christians believe the first icons were painted by St. Luke the Evangelist shortly following Jesus’ crucifixion. The subject matter was Mary or Theotokos (literally God Bearer.)

However it is in the eastern churches of the Byzantine empire that iconography first came to fruition. Traditional images like Christ the Pantocrator (Ruler of All), seen at the top, have continued to be created since the 5th century unto the current day. From the 7th century, icons have had an amazing continuity of style and subject; far greater than in the images of the Western church. At the same time there has been change and development.

Iconography continues today, particularly in the Eastern churches by modern iconographers. There has been great growth too in artists from the Roman Catholic Church rediscovering this tradition. These iconographers  paint both traditionally in form and symbols and expand on the methods and subject matter.


Above is an icon of Christ: Pantocrator painted by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. He was born in 1946 and is a Byzantine Rite Catholic and Franciscan friar. This image of the Pantocrator has been continuously painted for 1,500 years.

Lentz’s work takes the traditional form in many ways. Like all traditional icons of Jesus, Mary or the saints, the body of Christ stylized and other worldly, no hint of naturalism so common in the later western depictions. As in all Pantocrator icons, Christ is shown giving his blessing with his right hand and holding the Gospel with his left. The blue cloak signifies his divine nature and the red his human nature. The gold background symbolizes the eternal light that surrounds God.

Lentz’s differs from tradition in one very important way. He depicts the Gospel being open, and open to a passage not used in traditional Pantocrator icons. This passage is from the 25th chapter of Matthew in which Christ describes how the saved will be those who treated the poor with compassion and identifies himself with the marginalized. This particular Christology is of particular importance to Lentz and he writes and portrays icons in this light frequently. For instance he has portrayed Christ as an ethnic African in traditional African garb to remind the viewer that Christ is present in, and available to, all peoples especially the oppressed.


Fikos is a Greek artist known for his building sized murals, traditional church iconography and his own interpretation of Orthodox icons. He was born in 1987 and describes his work as “contemporary Byzantine painting.”

The work above is a 2014 work titled, Virgin and Child. In this he used the traditional egg tempura used in church icons, but he painted it on handmade Japanese paper that is glued to wood.

I find this icon interesting in that the motif is common, but Fikos dispensed with using the traditional colors common to icons of Theotokos (God Bearer). Typically Mary wears a red veil to show that she has been blessed by God while the clothes underneath are blue – to show her humanity. This is the opposite of what is seen in icons of Christ that show his divine nature with a human covering.

In traditional Byzantine icons of Mary three stars are highly visible on her veil. These symbolize Mary’s perpetual virginity, before, during and after she gave birth to Christ. They’re here in Nikos work too, but he dispenses with highlighting them as while one star is clear, one is partially hidden by the infant Christ’s arm and one is totally hidden.

Something I find striking, touching in fact, is the Christ child’s left foot which is shown outside the edge of the icon proper and seems to be resting on the border of the icon. It’s as if to show him outside of the icon, to remind the faithful viewer that this is a depiction of reality.


The Annunciation of the Theotokos is an egg tempura painted on wood done by Charles Rohrbacher, a contemporary iconographer from Juneau, Alaska. His icons are displayed in Orthodox (Russian), Byzantine Catholic and Roman Catholic churches throughout the state.

Rohrbacher’s The Annunciaion is traditional in all ways. Unlike the previous two artists we looked at, Rohrbacher doesn’t stray from traditional forms and symbols. Since the earliest 2nd century painting of the Annunciation, all have been brightly painted to show the joy of the scene, and are composed of two parts – the Archangel delivering his message and Mary’s response.

And like a hundred generations of anonymous iconographers that came before him, Rohrbacher doesn’t add his originality or self-expression to the icon. Traditional icons are not about the artist and his or her creativity or ideas, nor are they painted to please the viewer’s physical senses, but rather to, as Photios Kontoglou the famous 20th century Greek iconographer said, “raise the soul and mind of the believer who sees the icon to the realm of the spirit, of the incorruptible, of the kingdom of God, as far as this can be achieved with material means.”

(Charles Rohrbacher was selected in September for a solo exhibition at the Alaska State Museum sometime in 2017/2018)

Works Cited

“The Art of Juxtaposition.” robertlentz, http://robertlentz.com/the-art-of-juxtaposition/, Accessed 28 Nov. 2016

“Catholic Church Art.” wikipedia, 10 Nov. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_art

“Christ Pantocrator.” wikipedia, 23 Nov. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Pantocrator

“Contemporary Byzantine Painting.” fikos.gr, http://fikos.gr/contemporarybyzantinepainting/?lang=en, Accessed 28 Nov. 2016

Edelman, Anna. Window into Heaven: Byzantine Iconography by the Hand of Anna Edelman, http://www.window-into-heaven.com/p/welcome.html Accessed 26 Nov. 2016

“The History and Symbolism of Iconography.” monasteryicons, https://www.monasteryicons.com/product/The-History-and-Symbolism-of-Iconography/did-you-know

“Icon.” wikipedia, 12 Nov. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icon

“Icons of the Mother of God.” iconreader, 7 July 2010, https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/icons-of-the-mother-of-god/

“Jesus Christ: Pantocrator.” trinitystores, https://www.trinitystores.com/store/read-more/jesus-christ-pantocrator

Justiniano Fr., Silouan. “Contemporary Byzantine Painting: an Interview with Fikos.” orthodoxartsjournal, 30 Aug. 2016, http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/contemporary-byzantine-painting/

Kangas, Billy. “Icons in the Modern (and Postmodern) World.” patheos, 1 May 2010, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/billykangas/2010/05/icons-in-the-modern-and-postmodern-world.html

Rohrbacher, Charles. “Loaves and Fishes: Occasional reflections on the life of discipleship” charles-loavesandfishes, http://charles-loavesandfishes.blogspot.com Accessed 29 Nov. 2016


Contemporary Realism, Contemporary Academic Realism, Modern Figurative Painting, whatever it ends up being called – It’s Art Anyone can Enjoy

The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, did an experiment to determine whether visitors would spend more time looking at British art from the 19th century or works by contemporary British artists.

On average, contemporary abstract art by renowned artists like Rachel Whiteread and Damien Hirst were looked at for five seconds or less, the longest view (of Hirst’s dead sheep suspended in formaldehyde installation) being a few minutes – and that by some school boys.

However 19th century figurative works invited views on average twenty-five times as long. Some for upwards of thirty minutes. These were paintings such as John Millais’ Ophilia and James Whitler’s Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights.

I’m like those everyday British museum goers – much of contemporary art simply doesn’t appeal to me. It’s often abstract and doesn’t evoke emotion in me (think of Gerhard Richter’s large oil-on-glass monochrome red Mirror, Blood Red). Sometimes it seems nonsensical like the 340 ton boulder, called Levitate Mass installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Works like this seem to be some sort of intellectual exercise of the artist. And for the regular viewer to appreciate it there has to be prior knowledge of the artist, and the artistic statements they want to make.

However, over the course of this class I started researching whether there were contemporary artists who could evoke emotions, stimulate my interest and keep my eye engaged in their work for more than a few moments. Here are a few I’ve discovered –


unnamed.pngSergio Roffo is an American coastal landscape painter who immigrated to the United States from Italy in childhood. His stated interest is in color and light’s effect on the natural world. Completed in 2015, At Sunrise is a 30″ x 40″ oil on canvas painting depicting a dory at anchor. My eyes are first drawn to the dory’s ripled reflection in the not quite still sea water. I then find my eyes trying to distinguish between the sea and the horizon. The morning haze, turned pink and rose by the morning sun, obscures the horizon line. The shading from dark green at the bottom of the painting to a pink rose at the top fascinates me and fills me with a sense of tranquility.



Odd Nerdrum is a Norwegian painter who considers Rembrandt and Carravagio his primary influence. He mixes his own pigments and stretches canvas to paint on. I find the 1995 painting above, The Bargain, incredibly intriguing. In subject and color it reminds me of 17th and 18th century American paintings depicting Native Americans. The landscape is mysterious and apocalyptic, and the eye is drawn to an couple in mythical primitive garb. There is a light source from the left which focuses the eye on on the man’s shoulder and woman’s breast. He is grasping his cloak and she is grasping her breast. He’s armed with what may be flintlock rifle. What is the bargain? Is it between the and woman? Is it between one people and another?



Mario A. Robinson is an American pastellist, painter born in 1970. His techniques was influenced by Degas, Rebrandt and Vermeer. Many of his subjects are ordinary people found in rural Alabama where he lives. The Baptist is an 22” x 20” pastel completed 2004. Before I knew the title of the painting I thought to myself, “What book would be important enough for a the subject of the painting to hold?”. Now knowing the pastel’s title, I assume it is the Bible. Something about the shades of blue and brown in this I find beautiful. The various shades of brown in the old Bible’s leather cover match those of the man’s skin. My eye moves from the top of the painting and browns of the man’s face, downward to the Bible and end with his hands. They all share various shades of brown, and because they’re centered, I believe they are emphasized and given importance.


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Lester is a 15” x 20” graphite drawing completed in 2004 by Robinson. It captures what may be a look of concern on a man’s face as he gazes over his left shoulder. Ranch or farm fencing is hinted at past him and beyond that, a tree line. The more I look at this drawing, the more I see. For instance, his ringlets of his hair look to be plastered to his scalp from sweat and he has a beard. His furrowed brow is shadowed as the light is from above and behind. It’s this point on his face that my eye is drawn too. I’ve looked at this many times and it holds my interest.



Jeremy Mann is a San Francisco painter whose work features Impressionistic cityscapes, figures and landscapes. The one above is a 53’ X 50” oil on panel, titled, Una Bella Adagio (A Beautiful Adagio) completed in 2012. Adagio is a slow musical movement, in this case giving life to the woman’s slow movements in front of the three panel mirror. I love how we can see her back, and a silhouette of her breast, but the mirrors allow us to see three views of her front. Mann wonderfully captures the slow movement of the woman removing her skirt.



Mann’s Another Night Through Storms is a 36” x 30” oil on panel completed in 2015. This is an example of modern Impressionism. No single element of the painting is particularly realistic, and it’s not a photo or hyper-realistic painting. But like Monet and his lilies, I know that this is exactly what a nighttime city street looks like after a rain. I find the yellow, gold and red shadings incredible interesting and my eye lingers on the implied business of the city at night after a rain.

The works I looked at above all communicate something – they are composed of images of things that we see in the world. They can be interpreted and tell a story. It may be mysterious, and not fully understood, but a story is told if even just a single moment from the narrative.

 Works Cited

“Contemporary Academic Realism.” Artsy, https://www.artsy.net/gene/contemporary-academic-realism

Dalton, John. “Living Masters – the top realist painters working today.” John Dalton – gently does it. . .”, 4 Jan. 2016, http://www.johndalton.me/living-masters-the-top-realist-painters-working-today/

Hamilton, Martina. “Odd Nerdrum.” Martina Hamilton Fine Art, Inc. http://www.oddnerdrum.com/frame_odd.htm

Henscher, Phillip. “We Know What We Like, and it’s Not Modern Art! How Gallery Visitors only Viewed Work by Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin for Less than 5 Seconds.” Dailymail, 12 March, 2011 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365672/Modern-art-How-gallery-visitors-viewed-work-Damien-Hirst-Tracy-Emin-5-seconds.html

“Mario A. Robinson.” ARC, http://www.artrenewal.org/pages/artist.php?artistid=3323

“Odd Nerdrum.” Wikipedia, 12 Nov. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odd_Nerdrum

Ross, Frederick. “Why Realism?.” ARC, 7 Feb. 2014, http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/Philosophy/Why_Realism/why_realism.php









Art and the Great War

Art and the Great War

World War I, or the Great War, as it was know at the time was a war unlike any other in world history to up to that time. Nearly every country in mainland Europe became a battleground. 60 million Europeans served in the military. 8.5 to 10.5 million soldiers and more than 2 million civilians died from military action and genocidal war crimes. Another 5-6 million civilians died as a result of malnutrition and disease directly caused by the war. 22 to 23 million soldiers were wounded.

16 to 27% of the entire Serbian population died, 13 to 15% of the Ottoman Empire’s and more than 4% of both Germany and France. In France another 10% of the population was wounded. If you compared France’s total deaths and wounded to today’s United States population it would be like having 13 million Americans killed and 34 million wounded as a result of the war.

A conflict this large and involving the cultural and economic heart of the western civilization had to have had a profound effect on how artists understood the world and what they chose to think about as artists.



The Dying Soldier – Etching; 1924; Berlin; 18 9/16 in. x 13 9/16 in.

Otto Dix was a German painter and print maker. Early in his career his paintings could be considered expressionistic, and he was influenced by Dada movement. He was especially known as a member of the New Objectivity movement in Germany following World War One. He served as a machine gunner in German army for four years and was seriously wounded more than once. He suffered for at least ten years from what we would now consider post-traumatic stress disorder, at the time called shell shock.

Between 1923 and 1924 he completed a collection 50 prints called The War. The portfolio of etchings is gruesome and honest but not photo realistic. They don’t glorify or make heroic what happened, they focus on its horrors. One of the etchings is A Dying Soldier. I first noticed how the lighting in the etch is on the areas of the soldier’s terrible wounds: an eye and portion of cheek bone missing; entry and exit wounds through the soldier’s chin and jaw; injuries to his upper chest, forearm and wrist; and what may be a flap of scalp and/or leaking brain from his skull. To add to the ugliness I remember the title is A Dying Soldier. He’s not dead yet, and he’s suffering until he does.

unnamed-1.jpgWe are Making a New World – oil; 1918; England; 28 x 36 in.

Another painter who experienced the war was the British Paul Nash. His We are Making a New World also shows the horrors of the war, but in this case in a landscape. The oil painting is 28” by 30” and shows a morning sun rising over a treeless hills in background. The sun lights a devastated landscape in the foreground. There is no life visible, only a pus green shelled land, stagnant water and black, limbless remains of shelled trees.

I also notice the straight lines Nash shows the suns rays creating. They’re the only ones in the painting. It highlights the difference between the light and what the light is exposing – a dead landscape. The painting’s title is a response to a the pro-war believe that something new and better would result from it.


Gassed – oil; March 1919; England; 7 ft 6.9 in × 20 ft 0.6 in

American John Singer Sargent’s Gassed is a huge seven and half by twenty foot oil painting completed in England just following the war. It shows nine blinded men being led to an off scene medical tent by two orderlies. The guy lines from this tent are the only strait lines in the painting. In the distance another group of blind men in coming in too and the foreground is littered with wounded and either sleeping or dead men.

The entire painting is shown in a ghastly yellow light. I think it would of brought mustard gas to mind in the viewers. The nine blinded men tromp through the mud holding on to the man in front. It reminds me of Bruegel’s The Blind Leading the Blind, a painting I enjoyed in an earlier blog post. There is a realism in both that is similar too and unlike what we saw in the previous paintings. However Sargent’s painting is not photo realistic.

All three of these paintings express truths about the war experienced by the painters themselves. All three are representational art, and are not abstract. However, they are not photographically precise and are still able to evoke emotion in the viewer. I’m sure emotions were evoked in the painters as well as they found inspiration for the paintings in terrible memories.

Works Cited

Cordon, Gerry. “Otto Dix’s War: unflinching and disturbing, but dedicated to truth.” That’s How the Light Gets in. 18 Aug. 2014, https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/otto-dixs-war-unflinching-and-disturbing-but-dedicated-to-truth/ Accessed 29 Oct. 2016

Cordon, Gerry. “Paul Nash and World War One: ‘I am no longer an artist, I am a messenger to those who want the war to go on forever…and may it burn their lousy souls’” That’s How the Light Gets In. 18 Feb. 2014, https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/paul-nash-and-world-war-one-i-am-no-longer-an-artist-i-am-a-messenger-to-those-who-want-the-war-to-go-on-for-ever-and-may-it-burn-their-lousy-souls/ Accessed 30 Oct. 2016

“Expressionist Depictions of War.” MoMA Learning, https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada Accessed 30 Oct. 2016

Glover, Michael. “Great Works: Gassed (1919) by John Singer Sargent.” The Independent, 31 May, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/great-works-gassed-1919-by-john-singer-sargent-8637923.html Accessed 30, Oct. 2016

“Otto Dix: German Painter and Printmaker.” The Art Story, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-dix-otto.htm Accessed 31 Oct. 2016

“Paul Nash: Modern artist, ancient landscape: Room Guide: World War I.” TATE, http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/paul-nash/paul-nash-modern-artist-ancient-landscape-room-guide-0 Accessed 30 Oct. 2016

“World War I.” Wikipedia, 28 Oct. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I#Rape_of_Belgium Accessed 29 Oct. 2016

“World War I casualties.” Wikipedia, 26 Oct. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties Accessed 30 Oct. 2016

Realism to Impressionism

Realism & Impressionism

The more I look at, think about and experience remembering Impressionistic paints I realize that I have a range of feelings about them. Some paintings like Edgar Degas’, The Dance Class appeal to me. However, others like Claude Monet’s The Rouen Cathedral, Full Sunlight and others in the series do not.

Yet, Monet’s, Water Lily Pond (Green Harmony) creates a restful feeling in me but Degas,’ Before the Performance, feels plain and unnatural so doesn’t appeal to me.

I have learned from our readings and my research that French Impressionism has its roots in and grew out of Realism. This is a clue as to why some Impressionistic paintings appeal to me and others do not. I realized that the Impressionistic paintings that appeal to me are those may be the least impressionistic.


Jean-Francois Millet’s, The Angelus, is a wonderful example of French Realism. It depicts two peasants stopped in a field to pray the Angelus, one of Catholicism’s daily prayers. We can see they were in the midst of picking potatoes and a church steeple in the far background.

This painting is not realistic in the way a photograph is, it is realistic in its presentation of real life in the French countryside at the time. Degas’ Dance Class is like that. The perspective seems a bit distorted, as well as the young dancers faces. But we are given a realistic scene from life in Paris, and are left with impressions of the dancers emotions, be it boredom, physical effort, or worry (one of the girls is even biting her nails.)




In the mirror the girls dance in front of we see a reflection from a open window of urban Paris. It’s really just colors and perpendicular lines, but clearly leaves us with the impression of an urban landscape. It’s similar to the church that we see in the background of Angelus. It’s not photographically realistic, but the colors and shape make clear to the viewer that it is a church there and that an evening sun is soon to set.


Monet’s Water Lily Pond (Green Harmony) is an amazing painting. We see the sunlight on the crowns of the trees in the background. We see them reflected in the still water visible between water lilies. I’m left with a sense of a very slight, warm breeze, soft enough that it doesn’t disturb the water.



The Rouen Cathedral series of paintings by Monet and Degas’s Before the Performance are so unlike Angelus, Dance Class or Water Lily. I think in these paintings the artists were trying to depict the impression that a particular type of light on an object, or the objects movement, leaves with a viewer. In the case of Monet it is sunlight at different times during the day and year on a cathedral wall, and Degas’ Performance was interested in artificial light and physical movement.

In these paintings, it’s not the people or places depicted that are important, but how they look. The cathedral and the dancers are objects that the painter used to demonstrate light and movement. It seems to me the subject of the paintings in these paintings isn’t important – the dancers’ faces aren’t shown and the cathedral wall could have been any wall or cliff face.

Works Cited –

“The Angelus (1857-9) by Jean-Francois Millet.” Encyclopedia of Visual Arts, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/paintings-analysis/angelus-millet.htm Accessed 18 Oct. 2016

“Edgar Degas (1834-1917.” Encyclopedia of Visual Arts, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-artists/degas.htm Accessed 19 Oct. 2016

Gersh-Nesic, Beth. “Realism and the Painting of Modern Life.” Kahn Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/avant-garde-france/realism/a/a-beginners-guide-to-realism Accessed 19 Oct. 2016

“Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.” Kahn Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/avant-garde-france Accessed 18 Oct. 2016

“Realism to Impressionism (1830-1900).” Encyclopedia of Visual Arts, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/realism-to-impressionism.htm Accessed 18 Oct. 2016

“Rouen Cathedral (Monet Series).” Wikipedia, 1 Aug. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouen_Cathedral_(Monet_series). Accessed 17 Oct. 2016


The Age of Revolution

The American and French revolutionary wars were events that shaped world history. These revolutions and others in Europe and the Americas were were different than the countless wars replacing rulers before. These were fought by revolutionaries who trying to create entirely new political and economic orders. They were trying to remake their world and not just replace one monarch or tyrant with another.

Artists at the time who were sympathetic or involved in the revolutions used them as subject matter. Their paintings reflected popular feeling and the opinions of the new ruling class during and after the events they were painting.

The paintings I looked at are Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, Benjamin West’s The Fright of Astyanax (Hector Bidding Farewell to Andromache and John Trumbull’s The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, l7 June, 1775. All three depict scenes of their subjects willing martyrdom and self-sacrifice for their causes.


In the three paintings the subject is idealized and presented as a hero or martyr. Jacques-Louis David was a French neoclassical painter politically involved with the French Revolution He painted Marat within months of the assassination. Marat was a French revolutionary and a friend of David’s. Marat was killed by another revolutionary, Charlotte Corday, from another political faction. David painted Marat’s face and body in a soft light and in the bathtub where viewers knew Marat spent a lot of time because of a terrible skin condition. He looks Christ like, a martyr for the cause of the revolution. The original is more than five feet by four feet, almost life sized, and hung in the assembly hall for the revolutionary government. David described his painting as, “writing for the good of the people.”

Benjamin West was an American painter who spent almost most of his career in London. He was well known for history painting especially the Death of General Wolfe. The Fright of Astyanax (Hector Bidding Farewell to Andromache is a small neoclassical pen and ink drawing he dedicated to a Polish general Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko was a hero of the American Revolution having fought alongside General Washington. He was also a hero to the Polish people following the American Revolution as he fought to free Poland from Russian rule. West gave The Fright of Astyanak to him following Kosciuszko’s release from a Russian prison where he’d been following a failed attempt to free Poland from Russia.


The Fright of Astyanax shows a scene from a classical Greek story from the Iliad. It depicts the great Trojan hero Hector leaving his wife and son to go to battle where he will eventually die. Hector was honored by Homer as being a man willing to fight for his people and family without any selfish motives. A scholar noted Hector is a, “martyr to loyalties, a witness to things of this world, a hero ready to die for the precious imperfections of ordinary life.” It must have been flattering for Kosciuszko to be associated with such a selfless hero.

Painter John Trumbull was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, and later studied under Benjamin West in London. He painted many idealized historical paintings of the war including The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Trumbull was soldier at the battle, and he painted this work more than once. The first time was in 1786, just a little more than ten years following the battle. The subject is Warren’s death. Warren was a doctor and active in the early days the revolution. The American public knew Warren had been commissioned as a general before the battle but volunteered as an infantryman where the fighting was worst.The_death_of_general_warren_at_the_battle_of_bunker_hill.jpg

Like David’s Marat, the subject is bathed in a soft light from above which focuses attention on Warren and his martyrdom. I believe that for the typical viewer at the time, the light would of signified God’s awareness and approval of Warren’s actions.

The Death of Marat and The Death of General Warren both depict contemporary events. Both signal the martyrdom of the subjects and the painters’ approval of the subjects role in their respective revolutions. While Fright of Astyanax depicts a classical Greek myth, it remarks with approval on the Polish hero of both the American Revolution and Poland’s uprising the small ink drawing was given to. All of these works were commenting with approval on contemporary characters and events from the recent past.

Works Cited

“Age of Revolution.” Wikipedia, 1 Oct. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Revolution. Accessed 7 Oct. 2016

“Benjamin West (1738-1820).” Encyclopedia of Art, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-artists/benjamin-west.htm. Accessed 8 Oct. 2016

“The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775.” Wikipedia, 30 May 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_General_Warren_at_the_Battle_of_Bunker%27s_Hill,_June_17,_1775. Accessed 7 October 2016

Death of Marat (1793).” Art Encyclopedia, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/death-of-marat.htm. Accessed 8 Oct. 2016

“The Death of Marat.” Wikipedia, 7 October, 2016,   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Marat. Accessed 8 October, 2016

“The Fright of Astyanax (Hector Bidding Farewell to Andromache).” J. Paul Getty Museum, http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/99/benjamin-west-the-fright-of-astyanax-hector-bidding-farewell-to-andromache-american-1797/. Accessed 8 Oct. 2016

“Jacques Louis David.” Encyclopedia of Art, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/old-masters/jacques-louis-david.htm. Accessed 9 Oct. 2016

Jaffee, David. “Art and Society of the New Republic, 1776-1800” TheMet, Oct. 2004, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/arso/hd_arso.htm. Accessed 7 Oct. 2016

“John Trumbull.” Wikipedia, 8 October 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Trumbull. Accessed 9 Oct. 2016

“Neoclassical Painting (c.1750-1860” Encyclopedia of Art, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/neoclassical-painting.htm. Accessed 8 Oct. 2016

Redfield, James M. (1994) Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector. Durham: Duke University Press. P. ix.

“Tadeusz Kosciuszko.” Wikipedia, 29 September, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tadeusz_Kościuszko#Ko.C5.9Bciuszko_Uprising. Accessed 9 Oct. 2016




The Crucifixion of St. Peter


Painting by: Caravaggio

Dimensions: 230 cm x 175 cm (91 in x 69 in)

Location: Cerasi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome

Year: 1601

The Council of Trent was the Catholic Church’s 19th ecumenical council and was prompted by the Protestant Reformation. It instituted both reforms of the church and firmly restated and clarified doctrinal beliefs.

Council documents also recognized the power of the arts to both educate and encourage piety. It created guidelines for religious art in that it: asked Catholic artists to focus on distinctive aspects of Catholic dogma; illustrate the roles of the Virgin Mary, saints and the sacraments in salvation history; painting should be direct and compelling; encourage piety, and be understandable and relevant to ordinary people as possible. (1)

The Crucifixion of St. Peter by Caravaggio is a great example of visual art meeting the goals of Trent. It is a huge painting almost eight feet tall and nearly six feet wide. It’s placed above and to the left of a Catholic alter. On the opposite wall is another painting by Caravaggio, Conversion on the Way to Damascus.

The Crucifixion shows the apostle Peter crucified on a cross as it is being inverted. Traditional Catholic belief is that Peter was hung upside down at his request feeling not worthy to be crucified the same way Christ was.

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” So the apostle Peter formerly a humble fisherman is considered by Catholics as the rock the church is built on. In Catholic tradition Peter went on to become the first bishop of Rome, the first Pope. The protestant church’s rejected this traditional belief and the Catholic Church’s claim it was the one, true church ordained by God. So Caravaggio used this painting to bolster and teach two Catholic doctrines.

Peter is also considered a saint, a person whose life is worthy of being imitated. He is shown in the painting heroically all the light and viewers attention focused on his body and face.

There are three other men that are helping each other turn the cross and Peter upside down. The faces of the three men that are putting Matthew on the cross are hidden as if they are hiding their identity in shame or aren’t worthy of being identified.

This is an amazing painting that shows Peter being brave to the point he could even ask that he not be crucified the way his Savior was. It shows Peter as an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstance which is what the Catholic Church and it’s believers think everyone is capable of. This is an example of Counter-Reformation art doing exactly what the Council of Trent encouraged.

Notes –

Bibliography or Works Cited

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Peter Assessed 22 September 2016

“The council of Trend” Catholic Counter-Reformation Art

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/catholic.htm Assessed 28 September 2016

“The Crucifixion of St. Peter” By Caravaggio.

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/crucifixion-of-st-peter.htm Assessed 28 September 2016

“Caravaggio”: Italian Baroque

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/old-masters/caravaggio.htm Assessed 28 September 2016




The Blind Leading the Blind




Painting by: Peter Bruegel the Elder

Dimensions: 86cm x 61cm (34in x 61 in)

Location: Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

Year: 1568

The Protestant Reformation was a time of huge cultural and political upheaval in Europe. This can be seen reflected in the visual arts in the subject matter and style of art. A good example of this is Pieter Bruegel’s, The Blind Leading the Blind, or, The Parable of the Blind.

This large rectangular painting is roughly 3’x5’, longer wide than high. It shows a procession of six blind male beggars who each hold the shoulder of the man in front or the staff of the man behind. The procession is depicted in a “diagonal spatial arrangement” from the upper left to the lower right of the painting.

It’s incredible how Bruegel was able to depict both a moment in time, and create an image in the viewer’s mind of what will happen in the next few seconds of the scene. The procession’s leader has fallen into a ditch and lay on his back. The beggar immediately behind is in the midst of falling and has his hand out in an attempt to arrest his fall and his face turned in protection. The third blind man, while still walking, has just begun to stumble forward with his torso, the fourth and fifth figures have just begun to take lean forward and the sixth figure has this moment while not effected yet, is clearly only a moment a way from the same fate as his companions.

Like Bruegel’s other paintings of common or peasant life in the 16th century Netherlands, there are many details of life in the painting. Modern opthalmologists can even determine the type of eye illness or injury five of the beggars experienced.

Protestant influenced art at the time focused on “humble depictions of biblical scenes and moralistic depictions of contemporary everyday life.” It included art that was not made for public display in churches and may have had non-religious subjects.

 The Parable of the Blind is an example of this. It is not epic in scope like the church paintings and frescoes of Michael Angelo and avoids subject matter like the Crucifixion of Christ or the Annunciation which reflected Catholic theological interpretations of scripture. Instead it is a reflection of Christ’s simple parable from Matthew 15:14, “If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a ditch.”

Bruegel’s painting is so good that it makes me feel sorry for the beggars. It is not their intention to be blind. The second man even had his eyes taken out due to punishment or sickness. A lot of times people use the parable to cast judgement on people they disagree with, the symbolically blind. But I think Bruegel is showing these men sticking together and making their way out in the world by helping each other. Even though we know they will end up in a ditch we can blame the world, not them.

There is so much detail that makes the paining interesting. The ground seemed like it hasn’t rained in days, and maybe that’s why the trees didn’t seem healthy. We can see what poor men were wearing back then and the expressions on their face as they fall. It’s almost as if we can see the movement during the few seconds that it will take for all of the to follow one another into the ditch.

Works Cited:

“The Blind Leading the Blind.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blind_Leading_the_Blind Accessed 17 September 2016

Bruegel, Pieter. The Blind Leading the Blind. 1568. National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._025.jpg Accessed 16 September 2016

“Parable of the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.” Visual-Arts-Cork, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/parable-of-the-blind.htm Accessed 18 September 2016

“Pieter Bruegel the Elder.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder Accessed 17 September 2016

“Protestant Reformation Art.” Visual-Arts-Cork, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/protestant.htm Accessed 18 September 2016