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Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Art Canard

From U.S. Catholic magazine:
'For centuries the church was the principal patron of the arts. When people go to Europe, they visit churches or museums filled with art that used to be in churches. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy notes: “Very rightly the fine arts are considered to rank among the noblest activities of man’s [sic] genius.” '
“How bland thou art”; Saturday, December 18, 2010; By Jerry Bleem, O.F.M.

The old canard still has life, I see.

It was never the Church which patronized the arts.

It was the wealthy and for the usual reasons, to glorify themselves.

In the eras when bishops were part of the nobility and oligarchy, they participated in the conspicuous consumption of their class, and they installed artistic monuments to their wealth in their palaces, abbeys, and cathedrals. Of course lesser convents and churches, with less well-heeled donors, followed suit.

For forty years I have been reading these self-serving pleas by artists for more employment of artists. Their appeals to history ignore the facts of donors specifying how they wanted their money used, for ego-gratifying monuments more than for charity or social improvements.

The church leaders accepted the monuments in order not to alienate the donors. As continues to be true, the artists convinced the donors that the artists would create whatever the culture would admire.

All such monuments were individually crafted before the Industrial Revolution. Coming from a catalog was simply impossible, but a lot of reproductions of schlock existed in those eras as well.

There is too much art, good and bad, in most churches, too much decoration, too many messages on posters and banners.

If we have the money to spend in addition to charity and justice causes, then let us spend it on training preachers and presiders, lectors and cantors, and on worthy material and objects of the highest quality and least personal artistic expression, objects which are necessary for the liturgy and worthy to bear the weight of the services they offer.

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