We visited the Art Institute of Chicago last week. My wife always looks for “Vast Ocean” by Günther Uecker, one of her favorites. It’s a 3 dimensional abstract painting; you need to see it in 3D in order to appreciate it. Alas, it is no longer on display. What a shame!
I like to see “Hogs Killing a Snake” by John Steuart Curry. Not that it is my favorite painting. I just like seeing it. I don’t even spend that much time looking at it, or even go out of my way to see it when I am there, but it does bring me a smile when I notice it. “Pigsty and Latrines” is fun to look at also.
It seems that on each visit I observe a different painting, one I’ve noticed before, but never paid much attention to. Three stood out on the last visit: “That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do”, “The Military Sacrifice” and “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness”.
“That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do” took Ivan Albright ten years to complete. After such an investment he did not want to sell the painting for less than $125,000. The wasted life is depicted in an interesting way. It reminds me of the story of “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. How many waste their lives by refusing to go through the door! The old hand is reaching for the knob; there is still hope of getting through the door, but what a waste of life. What is not done by the Holy Spirit through your life won’t be worth anything to you beyond the grave.
“The Military Sacrifice (The Ambush)” by Frederic Remington reminds me of Caiaphas’ statement in John 11:50 “Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” The advanced guard in this unit is falling to the ambush, but through his death, the rest of his unit will probably be spared. You can see the rest of the guard fleeing back to tell the rest of the troops. Christ is the advanced guard. Christ died that we might live, and that through his death we might die to sin. His resurrection is the advance on our resurrection, the guarantee that He has power over death, the last enemy to be defeated.
I spent some time looking at “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness” by Paolo Veronese, but feel I am only scratching the surface. This painting has many of the standard “St. Jerome in the Desert” items, The pet lion, the cardinal’s robe, the church building in the background, the lake, the rock in his hand the crucifix, trees, the skull, the books. There are, however, other items that I am curious about: His gesture, like he is arguing with someone, a pen in a little plate with the point towards the author, an hourglass, a snail crawling up an olive tree behind a bound stump, the lighting variations, the people and cattle in the background, the open copy of the “Didache” in the left foreground.