Thursday, December 23, 2010

Art from Broadway Methodist

detail from Last Supper reproduction at Broadway Methodist, Cleveland
This is a copy of Da Vinci. It is still impressive, and instructive. It is instructive in the religious narrative and its pondering of reaction. Jesus is sharing supper with his disciples, the Twelve, and He announces to them that one is the traitor. So that now, Judas is synonymous with traitor, the last sentence could end, "and He announces to them that one is the Judas". As art, students with sketch pads have a lot to draw. There are many individual objects. There are groups of people. There is Jesus, Himself. Each is a study in itself. All of the years that people sat in front of this work, they could have considered much; especially if a speaker was deadeningly dull. The painting has life. Art students have drawn many inferior studies. Dostojevskij taught us we could be saved by beauty.
Samson by R. Toland Wright (1887-1934) . Cleveland.
On one side of the nave there are four windows of the evangelists, on the other -- the four major prophets. The last window is of Daniel, but one of the scenes is that of the Judge, Samson. Scenes of the Old Testament are paired with the New, this is paired with the Resurrection.

He said: Let me die with the Philistines. And when he had strongly shook the pillars, the house fell upon all the princes, and the rest of the multitude that was there: and he killed many more at his death, than he had killed before in his life. -- Judges xvi. 30.
Some vignettes work better than others. A couple of his prophets seem familiar from drawings. Samson, eyeless and chained to pillars, is a well known story. It is dramatic, and if sketched, instantly recognised; but can we think of a famous painting of the scene. One would think Rubens would have done one. From the nave windows, and this rests underneath the choir loft, this might be the most effective scene. Samson appears as a wrestler or a circus strong man, and the masonry flies and falls.

Wright's Ĺ“uvre overlaps chronologically with Prohibition, the time after the Great War and before the New Deal. Preliminary research suggests either he was the only Cleveland stained glass artist of the time, or at least the most significant. His work was done in several Protestant churches of note. Many people see stained glass as a primarily Catholic art. I have not found note of his work in a Catholic or Orthodox church.

A series of Wright's windows were destroyed this year, when Euclid Avenue Congregational burned to the ground. Different denominations have differing views and styles of iconography. Sometimes pastors may make a decisive commission. The earliest Congregationalists were extreme iconoclasts. This particular church had a complement of seven portrait windows, and three of them were Catholic figures (St. Monica, St. Francis of Assisi and Christopher Columbus). To some this had to be surprising. Perhaps someone has color photographs of them, they cannot be snapped now.

Broadway Methodist windows were his. On a very overcast day the windows are almost black. When the sun comes through they become very light, some light passes through as if no pigment colored it. To appreciate, and to critique the panes and their subjects one needs to have several viewings under divers light. This is the nature of the art, but these more than the average. On the dark day, the windows appear sooty and grimy. There are storm windows over them. The choir loft window does not share this nature, and does not have the non-figurative sections. The Resurrection aftermath is bright in all weather.

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