Sunday, March 20, 2011

Carl Bloch

Yesterday, Graham and I went down to BYU and attended the Carl Bloch exhibit at the Museum of Art. I have been excited to see this exhibit for months, and I was in awe of the beauty and spirit carried by the art as we explored the rooms of paintings borrowed mostly from Lutheran churches across Europe. The exhibit was staged beautifully, with each piece built into its own “altar” of sorts and chairs lined up like pews so that onlookers could sit and contemplate the works.

Of all the works we saw, many of which I have seen for years in church buildings and on the covers of church manuals, my favorite was one I was previously unfamiliar with. It is a painting of the story of Jarius’ daughter in the New Testament.

It’s different than the portrayals of most of Christ’s miracles that I've seen. In this one, the focus is not on the moment of triumph, but on the intense pain the moments before the miracle occurs. In the painting, the daughter is close to death, or maybe already is dead, and the mother is weeping over her (you can’t really see the tears in the picture above, but they're there. Trust me). Outside the doorway, Jarius kneels before Christ, begging his help and healing power. Behind, the sun is rising, the dawn of a new day. With this new day, Christ brings hope and the resurrection of a lost life. However, the mother, whose back is toward the door, doesn’t see that salvation has come. She is focused on her grief and her attention is riveted to her daughter’s deathly pale face.

To me, it seems that Bloch’s goal is to depict the contrast between the intense emotions of the mother at this time of overwhelming trial and pain and the hope brought by the Savior. So often, when we are in the midst of trial, we don’t realize that our salvation is at the door and that we need only look to see that the world is not as hopeless as it sometimes appears. A shift of viewpoint, a different perspective, can bring eternity into focus again and give us the strength to carry on despite unimaginable opposition and difficulty.

In just a few minutes, this painting completely changed the way I view that story in the Bible. The exhibit was saturated with the spirit of God, and it was clear that those present understood the love, faith, and knowledge of the divine possessed by Bloch that went into these masterpieces. What a blessing to be able to see them.


Robyn said...

Thank you for sharing that with me. I think that is a great lesson to remember. REMEMBER is a word often used in the scriptures because, as you said, we often are in the middle of our own problems we FORGET to look to the Lord and Christ. Thanks again for that great thought!

Paul and Susan said...

Sounds like a great exhibit you got to see. You have some great insights into the picture.