Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Artists as Prodigal Sons?

Rembrandt van Rijn
The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Church's historic relationship with the arts might best be understood as paternal rather than spousal. This is the view put forth by art historian Elizabeth Lev following the Holy Father's recent address to artists in Rome. The Church, as patron (from the Latin pater, meaning father), "acted like a nurturing father, providing education and boundaries but also exhorting artists to cultivate their gifts." Thus rather than characterizing the modern estrangment of this relationship as a "divorce", as it has been widely described, Lev contends that an "extended adolescence" is to blame. Modern artists, bent on self-promotion and self-expression, found the Christian narrative and aesthetic traditions contricting. "And so it came to pass that today's angry, sulky, self-absorbed adolescents of art chose to provoke instead of persuade, titillate instead of stimulate, and rage instead of reason." The Holy Father's call to artists, therefore, is for maturation, and for a return to the nurturing arms of their pater. To read the full Zenit article, please click