Page 2, 5th June 1953

5th June 1953
Page 2
Page 2, 5th June 1953 — ART AND WORSHIP

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Esthetics not a Priority

SR,-Uolike Miss Csonlay, I see nothing objectionable in the head

line of Fr. Crichton's article. "Art

as a Means to Worship." Her suggestion that "Art." at its highest, is something more than a means to :as end; that it is, in fact. "worship" in its own right, will hardly help the ordinary Catholic to distinguish the wheat of the "artist'' from the chaff of the craftsman. For. surely. every legitimate form of human activity becomes in the hands of a holy person adequate vehicles for religious expression, which I take it is what Miss Contay means by "worship." Eric Gill said somewhere that an artist is not a special kind of man. but that all men were special kinds of artists. Dock labourers like Matt Talbot are met with no more frequently than painters like Fra Angelico or the aged Honiedli. Why, therefore, single out for especial praise the production of an object d' art? To the spectator. the point is, I submit. irrelevant. For when a painter with even the religious convictions of an Italian primitive. creates a picture. however esthetically pleasing. with or without a religious content, the act of "worship" which the exercise engenders resides. should be inclined to think. largely in the act of creation. and hardly ever in the finished work. In short. when the picture is completed, the act of worship is at an end. The finished product then becomes either (a) a source of esthetic delight to the beholder, or (h) a means by which he can. if he so desires, worship God, or, if the picture happens to be a secular one. help him to enjoy thoughts of whatever subject the painting depicts. It cannot function as both fa) and (h) at one and the same time in equal proportions. St. Teresa of Avila's "holy pictures" may. for all we know, have possessed the esthetic qualities of an El Greco or a Velasquea. On the other hand, we most definitely do know that the sort to which St. Teresa of Lisieux was partial certainly did not. The implication. therefore. of Fr. Crichton's article that the Church, at a pinch, could dispense with the esthetic services rendered by "Art" is much nearer the truth of the matter than it might at first appear to be. The information will doubtless be a nasty blow to the vanity of the modern artist, secluded as he never was before in his ivory tower. But he might as well realise. if only for the good of his artistic powcrs, that the functions of the active man, be he "artist" or docker, doctor or "titter." are not indispensable to the widening of human experience. If a human being with the superhuman sensibilities of a "little flower" can get along quite nicely with the esthetic banalities conmined in Catholic repository art, why should Catholics suckled on Fry or Croce or Bell ' appear shocked when they witness the same spectacle happening to every Catholic Tom, Dick or Harry. whose sensibilities have been blunted almost out of existence by the cinema. the Press. and all the other puerilities that go up to make big business? Perhaps it is high time that Catholic repository art was "McCarthyised." But efforts in this direction can only result in failure if we think we can achieve our object merely by addressing ourselves to the abstract esthetic man. who stands in much the same relation to that complex human being who is the ordinary Catholic, as does the economic roan of the sociologist. or the mechanised "hand" ei the ;nde,erialist.

Denis Fleming.

24 Oa . n. Menehestee.

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