Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Modern Assumption

Carel Victor Morlais Weight (1908 –  1997)
The Assumption of the Virgin
Oil on canvas
203 x 183 cm
Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford

Weight was a distinguished English artist whose prolific output is still to be properly assessed

During the Second World War, he was appointed an official war artist. He was Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art for many years. He did receive official recognition during his lifetime. He was appointed CBE and then before his death CH - Companion of Honour.

There is a visionary quality to his works. He can convey solitude in a haunting and captivating way

He has been described as "eccentric" in the way that Sir Stanley Spencer was and is so described. But to those who perhaps knew him best that description is to totally misunderstand him

The British Library has a recording and transcript of an interview with Carel Weight

Selections of his work can be seen on the following websites

As regards the painting in Bradford, it was a rather strange topic for a painting at that particular time (1971)

The painting certainly does convey Mystery

In the painting we see the effect in a contemporary suburban setting of the assumption of Mary

The reaction of the onlookers is astonishment, sorrow, bewilderment, alarm, fear and even terror. This is not the iconography of classical religious art to the event we call the Assumption.

The spectators fear what they are seeing and what is to come to pass. What they are seeing is a vision of the Church in the future, what will and should come to pass. As in reaction to Christ`s teaching, the result is often consternation.

On another level, perhaps a similar reaction would be seen if Mary had been jettisoned from the Church or sidelined as seemed possible at the time

Perhaps the painting is simply a satiric comment on the sang froid of the British suburbanite who at the time lived in a two up two down semi detached or terraced house. Or  a contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary. 

At the time (1971), the Blessed Virgin Mary seemed to have been "downgraded" even by the Catholic Church. 

As regards the Feast and Dogma of the Assumption, well for many Pius XII simply got it wrong. 

After the reception accorded to Humanae Vitae in 1968, the Dogmatic Declaration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary ex cathedra seemed to be next in line for challenge and to be undermined. It was not about truth, they said. It was about politics, policy and ideology

The Declaration by Pius XII had always been under attack from within and those outwith the Catholic Church. 

It was even suggested that the belief in the Dogma was Monophysite

The reduction in devotion to the Virgin Mary immediately in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council had got to the point that Paul VI had to issue an Apostolic Exhortation in 1974: Marialis Cultus

He said:
"In our time, the changes that have occurred in social behaviour, people's sensibilities, manners of expression in art and letters and in the forms of social communication have also influenced the manifestations of religious sentiment. 
Certain practices of piety that not long ago seemed suitable for expressing the religious sentiment of individuals and of Christian communities seem today inadequate or unsuitable because they are linked with social and cultural patterns of the past. 
On the other hand in many places people are seeking new ways of expressing the unchangeable relationship of creatures with their Creator, of children with their Father. 
In some people this may cause temporary confusion. 
But anyone who, with trust in God reflects upon these phenomena discovers that many tendencies of modern piety (for example, the interiorisation of religious sentiment) are meant to play their part in the development of Christian piety in general and devotion to the Blessed Virgin in particular. Thus our own time, faithfully attentive to tradition and to the progress of theology and the sciences, will make its contribution of praise to her whom, according to her own prophetical words, all generations will call blessed (cf. Lk. 1:48)."

Pope Paul explained what the central element of the Feast of the Assumption was really about. He wrote:
"The solemnity of August 15 celebrates the glorious Assumption of Mary into heaven. 
It is a feast of her destiny of fullness and blessedness, of the glorification of her immaculate soul and of her virginal body, of her perfect configuration to the Risen Christ; a feast that sets before the eyes of the Church and of all mankind the image and the consoling proof of the fulfillment of their final hope, namely, that this full glorification is the destiny of all those whom Christ has made His brothers, having "flesh and blood in common with them" (Heb. 2:14; cf. Gal. 4:4)
The Solemnity of the Assumption is prolonged in the celebration of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which occurs seven days later. On this occasion we contemplate her who, seated beside the King of ages, shines forth as Queen and intercedes as Mother. ... 
In the Assumption [the liturgical texts] recognise the beginning that has already been made and the image of what, for the whole Church, must still come to pass"

No comments:

Post a Comment