Sunday, November 21, 2004
The Sabbath of History - Cardinal Ratzinger and William Congdon
Charles E. Flynn of Riverside, RI, writes:
The last place I expected to find a recent book with text by Cardinal Ratzinger was on a display shelf at the bookstore of the Rhode Island School of Design. The title is "The Sabbath of History." It combines Cardinal Ratzinger's text with reproductions of paintings by William Congdon in what the Congdon Foundation calls an "involuntary encounter." You can see a description and photograph of the cover here.
I did some research, and Zenit.org provides details on the publication of the book ("In Search of Eternity" January 7, 1999):
The last painting of William Congdon entitled 'Three Trees,' was completed five days before his death. The American artist worked on the painting the whole of Good Friday, April 10. Both in the choice of the title and the theme, he was inspired by Proust's 'Recherche' and the 'Icon of the Trinity' of Andrej Rublev (1360-1430), the Russian monk and painter who left his mark on Congdon. Both in his life and in his work Congdon pursued the same objective: to humanize the sacred.
Catholic New York editor Anne Buckley profiles the artist ("His Disc Of Gold", June 4, 1998):
[Congdon] was born in Providence, R.I., to a prominent family, well educated and attaining fame as a sculptor when World War II broke out and he joined the American Field Service. He served with the British Eighth Army in Italy, Germany and North Africa. He was one of the first Americans to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He painted suffering. And kept on searching.
And in William Congdon: Five Decades of Painting, by Peter Selz. Image magazine, No. 14, Summer 1996 -- a good biography beginning with this provocative quote from the artist himself:
I felt the weight of Christ on my pictures, on my very creative freedom. In those years few pictures came to birth, and they would not have come to birth—I lament—if I always had to think of Christ when I painted. When I heard that the Blessed Angelico painted with a brush in one hand and the Gospel in the other, it struck me as the most absurd nonsense. One of the greatest difficulties for the artist who offers himself to conversion is letting Christ settle in. The autonomy of art is an inviolable, untouchable mystery that, like the Spirit, "blows where and when it wills." "A collision of two mysteries," a friend said to me. One mystery the artist had already within himself. God has given it to him, and the artist will only permit God, with difficulty, to take it from him in order to have the artist accept another mystery that he neither sees nor touches, even if this latter mystery promises to recover and to regenerate the first mystery which was lost."