April 2011

Palm Sunday, Then & Now

PALM SUNDAY COMMEMORATES JESUS’ ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM and marks the beginning of Passion Week. It observes the triumphal prelude—so misleading—to bloody days ahead, a time of betrayal, torture, and death. While portrayals of crucifixions continued well into the 20th century, Palm Sunday has largely been ignored by all but a few contemporary artists. Jacob Lawrence is one of the few. He framed the gospel story in terms of a black pastor greeting his flock, with particular tenderness toward the children: // // Romare Beardon, too, phrased the event in terms of the black community. Continue Reading
How Much Ruin is in a Nation?

By Christopher S. Johnson “BE ASSURED MY YOUNG FRIEND, there is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” Adam Smith wrote to his distraught friend, John Sinclair, after the battle of Saratoga (1777).  Smith’s words are a model of equanimity; the defeat would bring French forces into the conflict and effectively decide the outcome of the Revolutionary War.  Britain would lose its American colonies. Sinclair had reason to be unhappy. Yet as it turned out, Smith was right: The loss of the American colonies was not a decisive blow to the burgeoning British empire. Continue Reading
Censored in United Arab Emirates

CONTEMPORARY CENSORSHIP IS A FUNNY THING. Art that mocks Christianity or displays hostility to Israel, is fine, thank you. But our institutions walk on eggs not to offend Islamic sensibilities. So it is cheering, to a point, to see a petition circulating on the internet to protest the dismissal of Jack Persekian, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation. He had the poor taste to include in the 10th Sharjah Biennial an artwork offensive to the religion of peace. // The artist is Algerian. Continue Reading
Modigliani: Middling Modernist & Peacock

“I WANT A SHORT LIFE BUT A FULL ONE.” Amedeo Modigliani got his wish. In 1920, at age thirty-five, he died, toothless, of tubercular meningitis in a Parisian pauper’s hospital. It was a sordid end to a confident stride into the trenches of la vie maudit. The romance of heroic nonconformity, vital to the cult of bohemia, absorbed the squalor and blessed it. Léopold Zborowski, Modigliani’s first dealer, declared him “made for the stars.” Clement Greenberg, writing under the pseudonym C. Continue Reading
Pre-Raphaelites and the Myth of Italy

DANIEL B. GALLAGHER is an American philosopher and theologian stationed in the Vatican. He is exquisitely placed to pursue interest in aesthetics and, if I can phrase it this way, the intersection of aesthetics and metaphysics. Fr. Gallagher’s specific concerns are the adjoining issues of classical, medieval and modern theories of art and—beginning to assert itself once again—beauty. He writes in the current issue of The Berkshire Review for the Arts, a small, elegant international e-journal devoted to just what its name indicates. Continue Reading