In Search of Beauty

It is amazing the beauty you can find in your own backyard. True I live near an especially rich treasure of museums as I am just a short ride from Washington D.C. and the National Gallery of Art. Even so, I am always putting off visiting these local treasures?


Below is an excerpt from my book: The Joyful Sound: Reflections on the Life of Christ in Art and Music

When you explore any major art museum, you will find the term “Self-portrait” used repeatedly by artist from across time. At first glance, this term might cause us to wonder at the audacity required to blatantly represent oneself to the world in this way. It is in self-portraiture, however, that we can find our greatest connection to the artist if we realize that these paintings are moments of self-reflection captured on canvas. It is when we attempt to re-trace their message to us that we can find what is universal about the art of living.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1902) labeled as a post-impressionist painter,  is sharing with us a unique window into the soul of the artists who is challenging the world’s view of the arts.

  • To understand his highly personalized style it is important to note that he is considered to be the transformative leader of a 19th-Century movement of artists who were fascinated with primitive folk arts. Their artistic endeavors, deriving from a blend of African, Japanese and Native American influences, relied heavily on conveying inward feelings through the use of symbols.
  • Like music, the art of Gauguin and later others such as Picasso, would delight in the pursuit of expressing the inexpressible. Animal totems, geometric designs, stark colors and exaggerated or floating body parts populated their imagery. And there too, were the reoccurring universal themes of religious symbols and the connection these could make to represent the artists as creator.

     I am charmed here by Gauguin’s use of the term “Caricature” and his desire to exaggerate or focus his talents on self-mocking. This painting, originally intended to decorate a cupboard door in the dining room of an inn, has ironically defined Gauguin and influenced the generations of artist that followed him.

For our purposes, it can be thought-provoking to realize the variety of ways people express their personal identity. Fashion, home decor, love songs, scrapbooking and even our new enthusiasm for “selfies” all highlight our common obsession with how we are seen by those around us.

How can we merge the ideas of our self-reflection and self-portrait, with religious symbols to create a picture in our mind that accurately expresses our feelings of relationship to God?

Jesus taught his disciples using metaphors that painted word pictures of his nature and that of the Divine. Continue thinking about self-portraiture as you consider John 10: 11 where Jesus describes himself as “the good shepherd” 

Close your eyes and begin to mentally paint a picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd….what  do you see? How does the scene make your feel?

If you, like share your picture by commenting. 

Blessings and Happy Sunday!



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