O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Art Appreciation

The oil painting above is called “Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ.” It was painted by a European artist in the early part of the 20th century. It’s not a fantastic piece of art by any means, but has some nice touches. For instance, rarely do you see Jesus pictures with daisies in them. And my eye keeps returning to the warmth and brightness of the background.

So here’s my question: At first glance, do you like the painting? Is there anything attractive about it?

Look at it and answer the question for yourself, and then read my first comment, in which I’ll pose a follow-up question.

Comments read comments(22)
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Jason Boyett

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:02 am

The name of the "20th century European artist" is ADOLF HITLER. Indeed. Famously, Hitler was a failed artist, though he does seem to have had a small amount of talent.Now, look at the painting again. How much does your knowledge of the artist impact your feelings about the painting? Can you evaluate the work objectively anymore? No right or wrong answers. I'm just intrigued by the connection between art — as something that stands on its own merit — and the artist who created it.

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Pastor Chris

posted March 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

I run into this all the time.Here's what I mean: Personally, I'm a big fan of Woody Allen. I've enjoyed his stand-up routine, his prose, and a number of his films. When I tell this to people, they immediately recall his personal life and his "romantic proclivities". However, when I showed his film in a group setting, the viewers fund them to be humorous and/or thought-provoking.Great art can and should reflect the artist's worldview. True, we cannot discern what that view might be from one work (painting, film, poem, sculpture, etc.) We would need to see more of the artist's body of work.The question becomes: can we enjoy a work of art, even if we do not share the artist's worldview? In my above example, I have shown that we can. I do not condone the details of Allen's well-publicized romantic life. I do not share his nihilistic outlook. I am not a atheist. But I can appreciate the films, and laugh at the jokes.Besides, we all have this same sense of separation in our own lives. Think of it this way: We do this same thing with artists we do like. We do it with our friends. All of have friends with which we disagree. Or they have some issue we do not like or of which we do not approve.Yet, we still love them. their friendship is a work of art in our lives.

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posted March 19, 2010 at 9:44 am

The baby looks kinda creepy. But I love the fields and flowers.

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posted March 19, 2010 at 9:46 am

R. Kelly has some great RnB tracks…but I still think he's a scumbag.

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C. Michael Pilato

posted March 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

Initial thoughts: Pleasant scenery, calming effect. But there's that annoying feature of Yet Another White Blonde Jesus (YAWBJ). Not so sure that "Bellis perennis" (the common diasy) is indigenous to the Middle East. Huh.Post-"Reveal" thoughts: Well, that helps to explain the Aryan Jesus and daisies.

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Ken Summerlin

posted March 19, 2010 at 11:17 am

I didn't care for the painting even before I knew it was painted by Hitler but I certainly understand the distinction between the "message" and the "messenger". I'll confess, however, that I still sometimes struggle with this out of concern that embracing the message can be misinterpreted with embracing the messenger.

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posted March 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I'm just guessing, but if you had x-ray vision… the underpainting would reveal a little baby Hitler Mustache.

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David Henson

posted March 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Initial thought (without reading your comment):That's a piece of crap with terrible theology and even worse aesthetics.After reading your comment.Oh that's why.

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posted March 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

It explains why Jesus has blond hair. It also makes me wonder what happened mentally to make turn into who he did.

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posted March 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm

No, I cannot evaluate the painting objectively anymore. Before I thought it was merely OK. The blond-haired Jesus annoyed me. It annoys me a great deal more post reveal.

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posted March 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm

First impression: A nondescript mediocre painting of a mother and child in a field of flowers. I guess without the cliché halo, I did not even realize it was supposed to be Mary and Jesus.That it was painted by Hitler, I guess would make the painting worth something of value to some art collectors and WWII buffs. As an aside, how does one evaluate art (in general) "objectively" since art is a subjective matter in the first place? Subjectively, knowing the piece was painted by a monster, I'm a little more inclined now to have a more negative opinion of the piece since I'm not into paintings in the first place.- Fastthumbs

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posted March 19, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Both the bottom right hand foliage and Mary's blue robe are well done and frame the composition in nicely…unfortunately the rest of the painting is lame, inane, vapid and poorly executed/constructed.I'm almost relieved that Hitler painted it!

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posted March 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I thought the painting incredibly soppy and sentimental, if well-executed in a greeting-cardish sort of way. And knowing Hitler painted it is no surprise — most mass-murdering dictators have huge sentimental streaks, instead of being the cold, calculating motherf***ers everything thinks. No, think about it: you can approach a cold, calculating person via reason, but how can you reason with someone who gets teary-eyed over the idea of Mein Volk!. They base all their plans for everyone on their emotions. This is why I get a cold chill up my spine whenever I go into someone's house and see a collection of Precious Moments figurines.

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posted March 21, 2010 at 7:40 am

In one of my art classes in high school we learned about Picasso – both his amazing work and his tendency to abuse the women in his life. After that, I couldn't look at his paintings the same way. I still like them, but I don't appreciate them as fully as I did before.

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posted March 21, 2010 at 10:51 am

I liked the colors in the painting. After I found out it was Hitler who painted it, I was reminded of a story that Paul Harvey did. He once told the story of a struggling artist and his trials and tribulations, then at the end, he revealed that it was Adolf Hitler. For me, I think you can separate the artist from the art to a certain extent.I like Woody Allen's movies, but sometimes his short stories reveal a little too much and are borderline creepy. So his real life actions don't seem so far fetched.

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Eric Stevens

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:29 am

I initially did not like it because of it depicted an Anglo Saxon Jesus and Mary…pretty trippy that it was Hitler though.

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posted March 22, 2010 at 9:38 am

It looked okay, I guess. I'm not really a "Mary and Baby Jesus" painting kind of guy regardless of the artist.But once I read your comment, yes, my perception switched. I don't really believe in objective reality much, though, so that didn't bother me. Besides, even if I did, I think motivation totally has a part in any art. I want the story behind it – not just some static "thing." For me, the story is part of the art.Nice question.-Marshall Jones Jr.

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Nicodemus at Nite

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Dang. I was wondering why Jesus looked like a white boy, blonde hair and blue eyed.It's hard to not like the piece now, knowing it was created by AH.@Pastor Chris – It's easier to like Woody Allen's stuff but he didn't kill 6 million people either.I'm thinking about C.S. Lewis when he talked about there shouldn't be more "Christian Literature" but more Christians who are writers, or painters, or any other kind of art.This has got me thinking Jason.

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posted March 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

This got me thinking a bit more… and to make this more relevent to current culture I’d be interested to know what Jason’s readership thinks of these:What movies/TV shows do you all avoid because of the actors (director or producer) politics/religious views? Personally, I refuse to watch movies with Mel Gibson (due to his anti-sematic vitriol incidents and Holocaust denial) and Tom Cruise (who is deeply involved with Scientology), even though intellectually, the ideas and characters portrayed do not necessarily reflect the politics of the actor (generally).In the Sports arena, how many people have stopped watching golf because of Tiger Wood’s indiscretions or NFL (or just Falcon games) because of Michael Vick’s involvement in with dog fighting? To me these are not that big a deal, but YMMV.As Nicodemus at Nite alluded to, none of these people (as far as I know) ordered an organization to kill 6 million people like Hitler did.- Fastthumbs

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Jason Boyett

posted March 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Good points, Fastthumbs. I'll add one more example: what about films by Roman Polanski?What do you guys think?

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posted March 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I still think it's a nice painting even knowing who painted it. Not a masterpiece but way better than I could do. I'm not especially bothered by the blond baby Jesus. It's inaccurate but a great many real artists have painted Him that way. The other side of being able to separate the art from the artist is that even if you are able to no one else will believe it. If you like the work of an artist who happened to be a despicable person some people will suspect you of secretly admiring him "as a person". If you dislike the work of an artist who happened to be a despicable person (Wagner, for example) his fans will accuse you of not being able to separate the art from the artist. I have wondered what our world might have been like if Hitler had been allowed into art school.

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posted October 9, 2012 at 7:14 am

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