The anti-Cranach

You might want to contrast the work of Cranach & Durer on their special day with another artist much in the news, the late Andy Warhol. The conservative art critic says this about him in a posting entitled Roger Kimball Warhol vs. art:

According to the philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto, Andy Warhol was the nearest thing to a “philosophical genius” that twentieth-century art produced. Why? Because he helped complete the assault—begun by Marcel Duchamp in the early years of the 20th century—on the traditional understanding of art as a distinctive, and distinctively valuable, realm of experience. Whether that activity is best understood as “philosophical” I will leave to one side. It certainly did a lot to change, not to say undermine, practice of art in the later part of the twentieth century. I have always felt that Warhol’s chief talent was not philosophical but promotional. The man had an uncanny talent—genius, even—for publicity. For me, his remark that “Art is what you can get away with” takes us close to the center of his achievement—not, I believe, an aesthetic achievement, or even a philosophical one, but assuredly something special in the annals of shameless cultural hucksterism.
Warholism is not the only perspective determining the shape of the art world today, but it is a strong, perhaps a dominant, force.

Think of that: a dominant force in today’s art world rejects the notion that art is a distinctively valuable realm of experience.

Warhol, of course, is the “pop-artist” of Campbell Soup cans, Marilyn Monroe prints, and films such as “Sleep,” consisting of 5 and a half hours that show nothing more than a man sleeping. That work was dutifully screened in Washington lately.

Christians have been accused, rightly in some cases, of rejecting art, but today it’s the art world that’s rejecting art!

Do you see why Christians have an ADVANTAGE over the secularists when it comes to art?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Bruce

    If modern Christians have an advantage over secularists when it comes to art, one would think it would show clearly by comparing each group’s works of art. But it doesn’t necessarily work out that way. Modern Christian architecture? A total sell-out to modernism. Christian music? Again, where is the distinction?

    Comparing Cranach and Durer to the likes of Warhol is simply comparing two different ages.

    There ought to be distinctions because Christians love truth, beauty, honor, purity; “whatever is lovely”. It just seems that we have this uncanny ability to play down to our competition.

  • Bruce

    If modern Christians have an advantage over secularists when it comes to art, one would think it would show clearly by comparing each group’s works of art. But it doesn’t necessarily work out that way. Modern Christian architecture? A total sell-out to modernism. Christian music? Again, where is the distinction?

    Comparing Cranach and Durer to the likes of Warhol is simply comparing two different ages.

    There ought to be distinctions because Christians love truth, beauty, honor, purity; “whatever is lovely”. It just seems that we have this uncanny ability to play down to our competition.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Interestingly, Warhold (according to what I’ve read) was an observant Catholic. Somehow his faith didn’t express itself in his life or work. Which is also pretty postmodern.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Interestingly, Warhold (according to what I’ve read) was an observant Catholic. Somehow his faith didn’t express itself in his life or work. Which is also pretty postmodern.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    In theory, we have an advantage aesthetically. Plus the Bible is an inexaustable source for imagery. What is sad, though, is that Christian artists have very little financial support! In my own world, I’ve taken a little break from making sculptures simply because I’ve run out of money to do so. I’m going to try to learn to paint instead because it is much cheaper to do. I know that I keep on harping on this, but I’m going through a little financial crisis. Even when I was working on those large marble sculptures the money was merely dripping in. It is frusterating and demoralizing.

    I’m working on a big idea, though, to practically encourange and support working Christian artists. More on that later…

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    In theory, we have an advantage aesthetically. Plus the Bible is an inexaustable source for imagery. What is sad, though, is that Christian artists have very little financial support! In my own world, I’ve taken a little break from making sculptures simply because I’ve run out of money to do so. I’m going to try to learn to paint instead because it is much cheaper to do. I know that I keep on harping on this, but I’m going through a little financial crisis. Even when I was working on those large marble sculptures the money was merely dripping in. It is frusterating and demoralizing.

    I’m working on a big idea, though, to practically encourange and support working Christian artists. More on that later…

  • http://pakruta.blogspot.com Paul

    What’s really sad is how incredibly talented some of today’s artists are. They just never use that talent and instead merely seek to be “cutting edge.”

  • http://pakruta.blogspot.com Paul

    What’s really sad is how incredibly talented some of today’s artists are. They just never use that talent and instead merely seek to be “cutting edge.”

  • Bruce

    I have no doubt that today’s artists are as talented as artists that have come before. What really is missing is the proper training to back up the talent (In addition of course to the proper worldview/values/theology). There have been sporadic attempts to establish schools of higher crafts and art, but as Sarah has pointed out, it isn’t easily financed.
    Back in the day when I was a furniture making instructor, I used to warn my students that if they wanted to do their best work, they should seriously consider doing so in their spare time. Not many are going to pay for hand-cut dovetail joints, as I’ve learned through the years. And the trend in all of the woodworking arts is toward CNC machining, not hand tools.
    I remember seeing a demonstration by a Japanese woodworker, hand-cutting intricate joints out of a single piece of wood. Amazing work. I learned later that his training had been in…barn building. He’d spent thirteen years as an apprentice in Japan, building animal barns. Extremely refined, beautiful animal barns. Back in Thomas Chippendale’s time, thirteen years doing bolstering work as an apprentice woodcarver was fairly common.
    In the end, creating great art–or even a handsome chair– is about the tension between aesthetic values and economics.

  • Bruce

    I have no doubt that today’s artists are as talented as artists that have come before. What really is missing is the proper training to back up the talent (In addition of course to the proper worldview/values/theology). There have been sporadic attempts to establish schools of higher crafts and art, but as Sarah has pointed out, it isn’t easily financed.
    Back in the day when I was a furniture making instructor, I used to warn my students that if they wanted to do their best work, they should seriously consider doing so in their spare time. Not many are going to pay for hand-cut dovetail joints, as I’ve learned through the years. And the trend in all of the woodworking arts is toward CNC machining, not hand tools.
    I remember seeing a demonstration by a Japanese woodworker, hand-cutting intricate joints out of a single piece of wood. Amazing work. I learned later that his training had been in…barn building. He’d spent thirteen years as an apprentice in Japan, building animal barns. Extremely refined, beautiful animal barns. Back in Thomas Chippendale’s time, thirteen years doing bolstering work as an apprentice woodcarver was fairly common.
    In the end, creating great art–or even a handsome chair– is about the tension between aesthetic values and economics.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    One thing that I’ve learned while trying to sell good fabrics is that it’s awfully hard to convince people to get something of good quality when they’re used to Target & Wal-Mart junk–or reprints from that guy who likes to paint little houses with lots of chimneys that are apparently on fire.

    It might be remembered as well, though, is that the great artists of the past do not, as far as I can tell, appear to be trained at universities, but were rather apprentices or even self-taught. Perhaps our current way of training artists at the universities actually prevents them from doing great work.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    One thing that I’ve learned while trying to sell good fabrics is that it’s awfully hard to convince people to get something of good quality when they’re used to Target & Wal-Mart junk–or reprints from that guy who likes to paint little houses with lots of chimneys that are apparently on fire.

    It might be remembered as well, though, is that the great artists of the past do not, as far as I can tell, appear to be trained at universities, but were rather apprentices or even self-taught. Perhaps our current way of training artists at the universities actually prevents them from doing great work.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I think you can compare them. If the talent is equivalent, the difference is the worldview that they draw on. A great apologetic for Christianity is to look at the art from Christian times as compared to the art from non-Christian times.

    The sad part is that, as everyone has said, that today’s Christians do not appreciate the arts as they should. This is just part of the cultural conformity that drives us crazy in other areas.

    I salute Sarah, who is a good example of a contemporary Christian artist who is drawing on her faith and expressing it in works of meaning and beauty.
    But she needs other Christians and, especially, churches to support her. (Do tell us what you are thinking of, Sarah.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I think you can compare them. If the talent is equivalent, the difference is the worldview that they draw on. A great apologetic for Christianity is to look at the art from Christian times as compared to the art from non-Christian times.

    The sad part is that, as everyone has said, that today’s Christians do not appreciate the arts as they should. This is just part of the cultural conformity that drives us crazy in other areas.

    I salute Sarah, who is a good example of a contemporary Christian artist who is drawing on her faith and expressing it in works of meaning and beauty.
    But she needs other Christians and, especially, churches to support her. (Do tell us what you are thinking of, Sarah.)

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I am thinking and praying about starting an “arts abby” for lack of a better word. I am thinking about pulling together a group of Christian artists so that we can all have studios together. (I may even have a building that’ll be ready at the end of the year!) The idea is that we’d be there to enourage one another as Christians AND as artists. We’d represent all sorts of different denominations and hopefully have the support of our home churches. Once we are up and running, we’d take in young apprentices! We’d also offer lectures and workshops free of charge (we’d only ask for donations) so that we can educate our community and reach people who might otherwise not pursue an arts education. The building is in a run down part of town and I hope we can be a beacon for Christ! (Dr. Veith, your book “State of the Arts” has been a huge inspiration for this idea! I’d love to talk more in depth with you if you like. My e-mail is hempelsculpture at msn.com)

    Ideas welcome!!!

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I am thinking and praying about starting an “arts abby” for lack of a better word. I am thinking about pulling together a group of Christian artists so that we can all have studios together. (I may even have a building that’ll be ready at the end of the year!) The idea is that we’d be there to enourage one another as Christians AND as artists. We’d represent all sorts of different denominations and hopefully have the support of our home churches. Once we are up and running, we’d take in young apprentices! We’d also offer lectures and workshops free of charge (we’d only ask for donations) so that we can educate our community and reach people who might otherwise not pursue an arts education. The building is in a run down part of town and I hope we can be a beacon for Christ! (Dr. Veith, your book “State of the Arts” has been a huge inspiration for this idea! I’d love to talk more in depth with you if you like. My e-mail is hempelsculpture at msn.com)

    Ideas welcome!!!

  • http://www.timbaron.com Tim Baron

    Wow, great post, great comments.
    Have any of you ever read Franky Schaeffer’s book, “Addicted to Mediocrity”?

  • http://www.timbaron.com Tim Baron

    Wow, great post, great comments.
    Have any of you ever read Franky Schaeffer’s book, “Addicted to Mediocrity”?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Sarah should seek an Ablaze! grant for this.
    Seriously, it sounds like a splendid and beautiful idea, and very vocational, in its complete sense.
    Let me now if you need a housekeeper and cook.
    Seems to me there’s much better things–higher things–to support with my time and money these days. Imagine that we could finance, and otherwise support, encourage, and share, a Renaissance in art that co-existed with our religious Reformation.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Sarah should seek an Ablaze! grant for this.
    Seriously, it sounds like a splendid and beautiful idea, and very vocational, in its complete sense.
    Let me now if you need a housekeeper and cook.
    Seems to me there’s much better things–higher things–to support with my time and money these days. Imagine that we could finance, and otherwise support, encourage, and share, a Renaissance in art that co-existed with our religious Reformation.

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