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Modern Art and Jesus: The Crucifixion
Transcript of Modern Art and Jesus: The Crucifixion
Modernity and Jesus
Aside from the birth of Jesus, the crucifixion is probably one of the most well-recognized and understood biblical stories, regardless of individual religious denomination or preference. Furthermore, in art, the crucifixion of Jesus is a popular topic--made easy for each respective artist to represent this biblical and miraculous facet in his or her own way, as he sees fit. We will explore several different paintings of the crucifixion from 1954 up into the 21st century. Each artists' depiction of Christ reflects his or her own thoughts, feelings, and understandings of the story.
Show vs. Tell: Interpreting Biblical Stories
Often times for the analysts, philosophers, and the right-brained thinkers, telling stories is the the more precise and clear method of conveying a thought. It is more often straightforward and little interpretation is needed. When we look at the gospels, there is little you can do other than take exactly what is written into account. Certainly you may look at context to get a little more insight but it generally means what it explicitly states.
On the other hand, art is almost completely the opposite. Giving the audience no explicit meaning, it forces you to interpret the message for yourself. Perhaps a grey sky could represent a dark and foreboding future, or to another person it could simply mean poor weather. Art most definitely calls into play imagination rather than reason and prompts us to think differently and more creatively.
References: A Complete List
Clarke, Geoffrey. Crucifixion.1954. Aquatint on paper. Tate Museum, London.
Chagall, Marc.East Memorial Window to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid. 1967.
Stained glass. All Saints’ Church, Tudeley, Kent.
Cinalli, Ricardo. Encuentros V. 1993. Pastel on tissue paper. Essex Collection
of Art from Latin America, Colchester.
Dalí, Salvador.Corpus Hypercubus.1954.Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York.
“Dalí and Religion.” NGV National Gallery of Victoria: Salvador Dalí Liquid
Desire. Web. 28 July 2014.
Eichenberg, Fritz. Crucifixion. 1980. Wood engraving. Dance of Death
portfolio, New York.
Hirst, Damien. Wounds of Christ. 2005. Silkscreen print on somerset satin.
Paul Stopler Gallery, London.
Wallace, Ann. “Discovering Marc Chagall in the English Conutryside.” The
Travel Society Magazine: What Travel Writers Say. Web. 28 July 2014.
Wounds of Christ
Oil on Canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
East Memorial Window
Wounds of Christ
Aquatint on Paper
Tate Museum, London
All Saints' Church, Tudeley, Kent
Dance of Death
portfolio, New York
Pastel on tissue paper
Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Colchester, England
Silkscreen print on somerset satin
Paul Stopler Gallery, London, England
East Memorial Window to
It seems as though Dalí is imaging Jesus as an untouchable, almost unrealistic being. The levitating, ascension-like feature allows Dalí to illustrate Jesus' ultimate power and grace.
In this painting, it is clear that Dalí places emphasis on the divinity of Jesus, rather than expressing him as human-like. The undertones and the lighting draw attention directly to Jesus, the center of the painting--this reflects his authority.
There are several key things to note in Dalí's portrayal of the crucifixion here. First, it is important to note the lack of wounds. There are no holes present from the nails and additionally, there is no blood or lacerations from the torture which Jesus is said to have endured.
Dalí mixed in his surrealism by depicting the highly geometric, 3-D cross and the levitating body.
His face is not directly shown, and does not express fear or pain.
The background is dark, almost ominous. This is symbolic of the world without Jesus.
The lack of wounds in the image portrayed by Dalí is symbolic. It represents Jesus' ability to supersede earthly physical damage. It demonstrates that his power goes far beyond the human world, and despite the pain of betrayal, he is able to overcome it for the ultimate good, which is being in heaven with God.
The third dimension to the cross illustrates just that--the cross is not a one-dimensional object. It is sturdy and stable enough to bear the weight of the sins of the world, yet not strong enough to keep Jesus from heaven.
Dalí returned to Catholicism, fearing death, int eh later years of his life, possibly causing the glorification of Christ seen in this painting.
In his painting, Clarke is portraying Jesus as more of a beast-like figure. The body is much more gruesome looking, and is can be more closely linked to human being rather than a divine being, due to its horrendous figure which is frightening or possibly even off-putting.
It is evident that Jesus is seen as a human-like figure, rather than a deity or god-like being.
It is important to pay close attention to Clarke's detail here. Notice how the head of Christ is hanging, as if he has been defeated. We cannot see the face to judge pain or fear.
The body is awkwardly shaped and it seems as though the figure is uncomfortable, expressing the pain of the moment.
Additionally, the color choice is interesting to note. The lack of color expresses the mood, which can be depressing, worrying, or even horrifying.
One last thing to note is that the cross appears to be tipping to one side. This lack of balance shows the inequality that occurred here and how the crucifixion of Jesus was something unjust.
Clarke most likely hoped to convey the evils and wrongs that were done to Jesus. The tone of the painting goes to show the mistreatment and disrespect given towards him. It shows the action of the crucifixion as torturous and unjust.
It is likely that he was a religious man, as it appears in his painting that Jesus did not deserve the death which he was given.
In this piece of art, Jesus appears at the very top. This represents something of an illustrative hierarchy, and in hierarchies, the most powerful figure is always positioned at the top, as Jesus is here.
Because of his position in the art, it appears the Chagall views Jesus in more of a divine, god-like way as opposed to being more of a human.
The vibrant colors of the stained glass are something not seen before--it makes for a lighter atmosphere and creates an almost 'happier' scene of the crucifixion.
As noted in the name, Sarah, to whom the window is dedicated, can be seen ascending the ladder towards the cross.
The figures and images at the bottom of the scene seem distraught and almost in pain, while those at the top have received the mercy of the Lord and are finding eternal life.
Though Chagall was not very religious himself, he viewed the Bible as a piece of art, much like his own, and appreciated it and the stories it held.
The parables and stories in the Bible provided a vast array of scenes for Chagall to recreate using his artistic abilities.
It is possible he depicted the crucifixion this way due to the mysticism and delight he experienced whilst reading these biblical stories.
Eichenberg was most likely depicting Jesus as a human being in his work entitled "Crucifixion." As the guard that stands next to him appears as a skeleton and Jesus appears as an emaciated human, it seems that both are supposed to be just that--human. Neither are divine beings or gods.
The first thing to note here is the image as a whole. It clearly represents that of a typical German concentration camp during World War II, depicting the barbed wire and the SS Guard.
The sign lists names of some of the German concentration camps; however, at the bottom of the list it mentions "Golgatha." This translates to "Calvary," which is said to be the grounds on which Jesus was crucified. This is highly symbolic, as Eichenberg is comparing Jesus' death to the death of millions of his very own people: the Jews. By personifying Jesus and making him seem more like an everyday person, it makes his death seem more personal and more affecting.
The emaciated body on the cross can be juxtaposed to the emaciated bodies of the millions of Jews forced through Hitler's camps and the pain of those millions is reflected in Jesus' downtrodden face.
A German in New York, Eichenberg probably felt terrible for the people of his country during WWII as he was safe in the United States.
Eichenberg likens the execution of millions of Jews to the crucifixion of Christ, thus revealing the importance of religion and salvation in his life, and additionally, his complete and radical opposition to Hitler's Holocaust.
Jesus is portrayed this was as he attempts to demonstrate the continual evils and wrongdoings of mankind over centuries.
Cinalli portrays the Jesus in this picture as a godlike being, more so divine than human.
The Jesus figure seems to be transcending all, a quality in which only a divine figure could do.
Note first that there is no physical cross present in the picture which Cinalli paints; however, it is assumed to be there due to the position in which Jesus' body is in.
There is a human-like beast figure below, representing all of mankind and its atrocity.
The light coming through the hole in the box represents all that is good and waiting in Heaven. It symbolizes the light among the darkness of the human world and eternal salvation (to which Jesus is ascending).
Furthermore, there are several places on Jesus' body in which it is cut through. This is representative of the toll that mankind has taken on the Human One during his time on earth.
Cinalli, born into an Argentinian family, was most likely Catholic (or religious at the least) due to the heavy influence of Catholicism in South America. Because of this adherence to the Catholic doctrine, it is easy to see why he would have depicted Jesus as a divine figure rather than a human one.
Encuentros translates to "encounters."
Easily one of the more disturbing depictions of Jesus' crucifixion, Hirst adds a modern spin to his art.
Here, without a doubt, Jesus is portrayed as a human. The photo-realistic silkscreen prints clearly detail that of a human's body.
The emphasis is definitely placed on the humanity of Christ.
Again in this piece of art there is no 'actual' cross being depicted, instead, the photos are arranged into the shape of a cross.
The incredible realism in the wounds makes the suffering seem more plausible, and allows normal, average people to almost imagine what Jesus was going through.
The fact that we are unable to see the whole of Jesus, as in his entire body, is also symbolic. The pieces and fragments we are presented with show us that the body is not what is important. The body is transient and ephemeral, and the only thing that matters in the end is the soul.
The open heart surgery illustrates the pain that the human race caused Jesus; however, after surgery comes healing. Subsequently after death comes life in God.
Hirst was born into a Catholic family, and this can be seen through a number of his works which express catholic themes, such as this one, depicting the crucifixion.
He most likely portrayed Jesus and the crucifixion in this way in order for people in modern society to still biblical art relevant. He realizes that people no longer connect with painting of the crucifixion that are hundreds of years old.
The realistic nature of this piece allows a larger audience to grasp the idea of the crucifixion.