Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Christ Entering into Brussels

Here is James Ensor's most famous painting.

James Ensor was born to an English father and a Flemish mother, shopkeepers in the coastal town of Ostend. They kept a store or market stall there which catered to the tastes of holidaymakers, selling bricabrac, toys, beach articles and the grotesque carnival masks which were traditionally worn in the local Shrove Tuesday processions. These parades and the masks were to figure prominently in Ensor's work, notably his monumental painting, Christ Entering into Brussels, monumental not only for its size but for its merciless depiction of the cruelty, vanity, hypocrisy and fatuousness which the artist perceived all around him in mid-19th-century Belgian society.

But the young artist, an acknowleged master in his 20's, did not silence his disgust. He expressed it in some of the most scathing and original works of art ever created. His reviled and renowned Christ Entering... is only the most famous, but the whole body of his work, which includes more than 160 etchings as well as hundreds of paintings and drawings, is a brilliant denunciation, not only of the morally bankrupt Belgian--and by extension European--society of his day, but also an advance on the homicidal folly which was to ensue in the 20th century.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Minister Contemplates Nothingness

One of George McDonald fictional characters is Thomas Wingfold, an Anglican curate who is asked: "Do you still think of giving up your curacy?"

Wingfold responds:

"I have almost forgotten I ever thought of such a thing. Whatever energies I may or may not have, I know one thing for certain, that I could not devote them to anything else I should think entirely worth doing. Indeed nothing else seems interesting enough--nothing to repay the labour, but the telling of my fellow-men about the one man who is the truth, and to know whom is the life. Even if there be no hereafter, I would live my time believing in a grand thing that ought to be true if it is not. No facts can take the place of truths, and if these be not truths, then is the loftiest part of our nature a waste. Let me hold by the better than the actual, and fall into nothingness off the same precipice with Jesus and John and Paul and a thousand more, who were lovely in their lives, and with their death make even the nothingness into which they have passed like the garden of the Lord. I will go further . . . and say, I would rather die for evermore believing as Jesus believed, than live for evermore believing as those that deny him. If there be no God, I feel assured that existence is and could be but a chaos of contradictions, whence can emerge nothing worthy to be called a truth, nothing worth living for.--No, I will not give up my curacy. I will teach that which IS good, even if there should be no God to make a fact of it, and I will spend my life on it, in the growing hope, which MAY become assurance, that there is indeed a perfect God, worthy of being the Father of Jesus Christ, and that it was
BECAUSE they are true, that these things were lovely to me and to so many men and women, of whom some have died for them, and some would be yet ready to die."