05 Dec 2014 | 2 Comments

As in Painting, so is Poetry

The image above, a detail of a painting by Balthus called The Painter and His Model, goes particularly well with the poem below by James Merrill. Balthus, his head wrapped in a cloth to keep paint off his hair, seemingly pulls the curtain aside but, on our level, he really has the extended arm...

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02 Dec 2014 | 11 Comments

Your Go: Explain this picture!

OK, readers, this a chance to practice your own powers of perception and interpretation before I comment: 

Explain below what this Crucifixion scene might mean and the oddity of Christ’s loincloth. I am drawing attention to that particular detail because, as always, oddities, "errors" and...

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06 Oct 2014 | 1 Comments

Dürer, Titian, Art and Blasphemy


For those who have trouble - I certainly did - understanding how artists like Dürer (top) and Titian (below) could have portrayed themselves as Christ, here is a poem attributed to an 11th-century spiritual master of the Greek Orthodox Church.1 The truth he writes about - that we are...

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24 Sep 2014 | 2 Comments

Reading Art: Manet, Picasso and Alfonso Ponce de Leon

My vision, like most people’s, is often cloudy which is why when the sun breaks and I gain some understanding, I get excited. You must excuse me. It may sometimes seem as if no-one before me has made similar observations. After all, all my entries on EPPH must include something unknown to...

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20 Aug 2014

The Craftsman’s Christ

This is a scene by an unknown 16th-century artist, probably Flemish, at a time when artisanal effort was admired not just for the perfection of the end-product but for the artisan’s closely-guarded knowledge of materials. Wood, stone, minerals, plant extracts, gold-work, smelting etc. No-one...

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25 Jun 2014 | 2 Comments

Is self-representation self-centered?

(On vacation. A re-post from last summer)

The practical and philosophical issue of whether figures in art depict the artist or the apparent character is well expressed by two different translations of the same text in a Upanishad. The passage in question helps explain why art, though focused...

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01 May 2014 | 1 Comments

An Intriguing Self-portrait, c.1345 BC

One of the earliest surviving self-portraits from antiquity is that of Bak, chief sculptor to the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. It is beautifully preserved in Berlin (above) and is very intriguing given Western art history’s traditional description of Egyptian art as something foreign.

As...

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18 Feb 2014

Art’s Purpose

To become like God (ie, gain access to Wisdom) has long been the principal goal of all who practice inner-focused spirituality. The group includes not only monks and nuns in cloistered communities but spiritual seekers in the wider world as well, including true philosophers, esotericists of...

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20 Nov 2013

Picasso Hid a Sword in Nazi Loot

Sometimes I do no work at all. Things just pop in my face. I suppose I'm so used to looking for certain features that my eyes know what to look for subconsciously. That's what appeared to happen last week as I read the news that the Germans had confiscated a trove of paintings stolen by the...

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31 Oct 2013

A Sioux Story on Creation

Every painter paints himself is not just an expression of a poetic method but an insight into the nature of reality. That’s why it’s so important. You can only see in front of you what you already know or feel inside you. Thus, we too paint our own experience.  We just don't know it or...

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09 Oct 2013 | 1 Comments

Artist Crucified in his Studio

No-one you know thinks of themself as Christ which may be why most people find it so impossible to believe that artists do. My continual harping on this theme can sound like madness. One new reader, clearly dedicated to her Church, complained vociferously last week. Yet it is true because...

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25 Jul 2013

Is Kanye West a God?

Kanye West has a new song out, "I Am a God." Very few people can imagine Kanye West as a God. I can. EPPH has been arguing for years that important artists consider themselves God. This is not just, I believe, for delusions of grandeur (though no doubt there is an element of that) but also for...

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15 Apr 2013 | 1 Comments

Understanding how you are God

If you want a short and concise explanation of how today's mystical Christians think about God, read Carl McColman's excellent post on Does God = Consciousness? He responds to the letter of a theoretical physicist trying to reconcile his work with his spirituality. He explains how God resides...

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03 Apr 2013 | 3 Comments

Art as a Spiritual Guidebook

Some readers may wonder - not many, I hope - how and why I describe so many different figures in art, from the Middle Ages to Picasso, as yet another representation of the artist. It can seem repetitive and boring, even simplistic. Yet it is a basic fact that needs constant repetition precisely...

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20 Mar 2013 | 2 Comments

How Degas drew a top hat…

Art is so pregnant that even in a "simple" sketch like Degas' Edouard Manet at the Races (c. 1865) there is always something more. I thought I had drained the drawing when I finished writing about it yesterday (see entry). And, then, this morning I suddenly noticed Manet's halo! Degas has drawn...

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