Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our Friend Francis

Fritz Eichenberg. St. Francis, Sermon to the Birds. 1952.
As we have seen christianity is not of all one sort. After Mary [she suffers abuse by some] of all the saints, the most popular christian figure, may very well be, Saint Francis of Assisi. There is no shortage of anglican, or even unitarian churches blessing animals on this day, or on the Sunday nearest the feast day of the 4th of October. Only 'evangelicals' [of a certain sort] show antipathy, or peculiar understanding of our, good Saint Francis.

Many enjoy the almost contemporary Cimabue, and Giotto paintings. Others may prefer the baroque italians
Caravaggio, Gentileschi, and Reni, or the spaniards — Murillo, El Greco [yes, i realise], Ribera, and especially, Zurbaran. The baroque Francis is without the animals, and in deep prayer.

Two 20th century artists, who worked in wood blocks, who were converts to christianity in protestant forms, did several St. Francises.
Fritz Eichenberg did three for the WPA, on Roosevelt's dime. One each with the creatures of the land, air, and sea. He is in a hot air balloon, and he is in a diving suit and helmet. If one did not know, that it was a series of three, and only saw Francis with the Bible speaking to the fishes, one could surmise that the then jewish artist, mistook Francis for Anthony of Padua. In 1952 a sermon to the birds, and another with animals and a child, the sermon again in '54, in 1973 the Stigmata, and the St. Francis Prayer (1979).

Sadao Watanabe also revisited the subject of Francis and the birds several times. The gentleness, the voluntary poverty, being in communion with all nature appeals beyond certain confessional lines.

Sadao Watanabe. St. Francis Preaches to the Birds. 1994.
An earlier woodblock, was done by the catholic, Maurits Cornelis Escher in 1922. He is primarily remembered for paradoxical, and mathematical inspired drawings. In 1922 he travelled to Italy, and Spain, and turned twenty-four. As an old man, Escher had a full head of hair, his Francis looked like the aged Escher, otherwise.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. St. Francis Preaches to the Birds. 1922.
earlier essays: 2007 , 2008

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