Monthly Archives: December 2013

Who’s crazy now?

The Prisoners, 1908, Käthe Kollwitz, from A Weaver’s Revolt. Yesterday, a reader sent me this, after commenting that Käthe Kollwitz’ Woman with Dead Child was a frightening drawing: “It is believed Käthe Kollwitz suffered from anxiety during her childhood due to the death of her siblings. More recent research suggests that Kollwitz may have suffered from a […]

That’s insane.

Woman with Dead Child, 1903, Kathe Kollwitz. The majority of 20th century artists presented madness and grief as a terrifying spectacle. Kollwitz, uniquely, empathized with those who were suffering. Last week when I wrote about modern culture’s inexorable squeeze toward a single mode of thinking, I had a vague idea that it might be interesting […]

Culture of Excess

Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt, 1551,Pieter Aertsen My friend Dan Gowing was writing his Sunday school lesson this week when he realized just how efficient Jesus was with the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. The Gospel of Mark records that there were twelve baskets left after feeding 5,000 men and their families. […]

Crazy artists

Pietà, (1498-99) Michelangelo. There’s been speculation that Michelangelo was somewhere on the autism spectrum. His hygiene was abysmal, he didn’t like talking to others, and he was monomaniacally focused on his work. And yet he exerted an unparalleled influence on western thinking, as a sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer. I meet myself in the […]

America’s favorite folk art form

Nativity crèche at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Rochester, NY. This follows the German custom of not placing the Christ Child in place until Christmas. I confess to secretly plotting for years with my friend Judie to steal this and resurrect it on our Town Triangle on a Friday night, in the belief that nobody […]

It is what it is…

Cartoon for an oil painting of Dr. Bernard Plansky removing my surgical staples. By the time you read this, I will be snoring softly under a general anesthetic while the very gifted Dr. Eugene P. Toy takes a sharp knife to my innards. This is my sixth surgery in fourteen years. If a stranger told […]

Six Days of Advent: The Magi

The Adoration of the Magi (tapestry), 1904, by Edward Burne-Jones. Note the angel leading the magi with the Star of Bethlehem cupped in his hands. My father occasionally talked about the last time he saw his father. He said he was a very small boy, and there had been a blizzard on St. Patrick’s Day, and […]

Six Days of Advent: The Shepherds

The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Chinese. 20th century, Unknown Artist (and that’s a pity, because it’s a wonderful painting). And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But […]

Six Days of Advent: The Mystical Nativity

The Nativity, 1912, Sir Stanley Spencer. Joseph is off to the right, doing something to the chestnut tree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Raphael, Rubens, Tiepolo, Correggio, and the other great painters who’ve painted exquisite Nativities. But there is something arresting about the mystical nativity, where reality is somehow subsumed in spiritual fervor. Sir […]