Painting as Prayer
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE BY THE SWEDENBORGIAN ON-LINE COMMUNITY
September 19, 2010
Painting as Prayer
Light a candle
[note: the songs may be not be visible in Internet Explorer. You may need to use Monzilla Firefox or Google Chrome]
FROM THE BIBLE
27. And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. 28. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The Divine is the same in the greatest and the smallest things. (Divine Love and Wisdom n.77)
So long as man is spiritual, his dominion proceeds from the external man to the internal .. But when he becomes celestial, and does good from love, then his dominion proceeds from the internal man to the external... [Heavenly Secrets, #2]
The Divine fills all space of the universe w/o being bound by space. [Divine Love and WIsdom, #69]
Painting as Prayer:
The true end of Art is not to imitate a fixed material condition, but to represent a living motion.
We’ve been exploring the concept of poetry as prayer, looking at poets influenced by Swedenborg:
Now, let’s consider paintings as prayer.
Many religious traditions honor the prayer in art. “The purpose of traditional Buddhist art is to express the indescribable beauty of the Buddha’s enlightened qualities so that they remain deeply imprinted on our memory.” [Van Dusen, p. 81].
Let’s explore the work of Swedenborgian artist George Inness [1825-1894], who was one of the Hudson River painters.
He was born in the Hudson River town of Newburgh, New York, in 1825; the 5th of 13 children. His household included a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Universalist.
His father was a successful grocer, and Inness began work as a grocer's clerk when he was in his teens. He taught himself to paint, and began painting seriously in 1841 [age 16]. He had his first exhibition at the National Academy of Design four years later.
He became Swedenborgian in 1860 at the age of 35, when a fellow painter, William Page, introduced him to Swedenborg. From then on, he attempted to express Swedenborgian theology in his painting.
At the 1893 Chicago fair, Inness was the best-represented American, with fifteen paintings.
He wanted to express the Swedenborgian concept of the presence of the Divine in the earth. He wrote:
The paramount difficulty with the artist is to bring his intellect to submit to the fact that there is such a thing as the indefinable, God is always hidden, and beauty depends upon the unseen--the visible upon the invisible.
He often stated he was not out to glorify nature, but to express its hidden spirit and underlying character. At the heart of this approach to painting was Inness's understanding of the aim of art, which was not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion.
He wanted his paintings to show divine influx, and wrote:
The intelligence to be conveyed by it [art] is not of an outer fact, but of an inner life. The greatness of art is not in the display of knowledge, or in material accuracy, but in the distinctness with which it conveys the impressions of a personal vital force, that acts spontaneously, without fear or hesitation.
Inness termed his work "civilized landscapes" and tried to paint an integration of humanity and nature. He saw God as ever-changing, and wanted to express this concept in his paintings.
Because of this, he never saw his painting as “finished.” As his son wrote:
My father had the idea firmly established in his mind that a work of art from his brush always remained his property, and that he had the right to paint it over or change it at will, no matter where he found it or who had bought it, or what money he may have received for it. Wherever he found his pictures after they had left his studio he criticized, and would in most violent language declare the thing was "rot," that the sky was false or the distance out of key, and in a very matter of fact way would say "Just send it around to the studio to-morrow and I'll put it into shape.'
If the owner of the painting objected that he liked it just as it was, Inness would say,
it makes no difference what you like; I say the thing is false.... And I want you to understand, sir that I claim the right to go into any house and change a work of mine when I am not satisfied with it, and see where I can improve it. And he said, “Do you think, because you have paid money for a picture of mine, that it belongs to you?"
He also wrote: I have changed from the time I commenced [painting] because I had never completed my art and as I do not care about being a cake I shall remain dough subject to any impression which I am satisfied comes from the region of truth.
Inness's devotion to Swedenborgian doctrine and his desire to find new ways of seeing the world, led to the creation of a new form of landscape painting. His innovative style and his studies in psychology and philosophy distinguish Inness from other American painters of his time; give his work a deeply spiritual quality.
Roberta Smith wrote in a New York Times article that Inness wanted to show that paint has a nature all its own, and that God, or something close, was in the lack of details. Ms. Smith added that Inness's appreciation of paint as a vehicle for personal, complex emotional expression was years ahead of its time. His work has long been considered a precursor to the painterly, process-oriented art of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning.
[The New York Times; Sept. 26, 2003].
When Inness painted, he was expressing his love of God, as one might do in a sermon or a prayer. What is it like for you to look deeply at his paintings? Are they, for you, a way to experience and worship God?
Watch a slide show of Inness’ paintings with the music of Rev. Ken and Laurie Turley [Swedenborgians] playing in the background and see if it can be a form of worship for you.
To watch the slide show, CLICK THIS LINK.
[you can go back later and learn more about each painting by clicking it.]
Extinguish your candle.
Close the Bible
Go forth, seeing the prayers in paintings.