FAITH AND ART: Christ healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife by John Bridges, 1839

Balance, elegance, harmony, symmetry of composition, flatness of paint….these are probably the ad hoc adjectives to describe the painting in consideration. These features also adhere to the Renaissance style of art that focused on the ‘eternal’ in an earthly setting.

However a glance at the date of composition of the painting flings forth an artistic shock. Why does John Bridges, an English painter of the 19th century employ the artistic traditions of the 15th century age of revival? Is he consumed by a culture lag? Or does he seek to revive the swag and the style of a ‘forgotten’ era?

Read forth to explore the mental dynamics and the origins of his style.

As the Renaissance galloped its way to the Baroque and the Rococo it confronted an art of persuasion accentuated by drama, realism, bold contrast, physicality, palpability and exuberant ornamentation. Beaming with energy, this art was meant to capture the senses and awaken emotions. The figures of the painting and the viewers of art merged together to share each other’s space and time. The divine and the earthly collided.

But not everyone was happy with this encounter. A few artists decided to do away with the vigour and passions provoked by the French Revolution (1789 – 1799). They left Germany and France and marched forward to Rome – Rome, which had lost its worldly powers but not its essence of the eternal and the universal. Thus sprung forth the ‘Nazarene movement’

Their main aim was to deny the ‘materiality’ of the painting and to direct the viewer to a more abstract spiritual quality. Art to them was not a de luxe product meant to beautify private homes or sold at exhibitions. Rather they believed in art as the crib of the expression of the daily and a meditation of the heavenly.

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