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Friday, December 9, 2011

Carl Bloch: Genius

I can't remember my first exposure to a Carl Bloch painting.  My church makes regular use of his religious works (most the Christ-centered one), and has done so since long before I was born.  I do, however, recall with poignancy the first time I saw one of his originals.

I was a poor undergrad at BYU in Provo, Utah.  The university's museum of art had managed to take on loan "Healing at the Pool of Bethesda," which in print, of course, I had seen before.  It was a winter day.  I believe I was dawdling--or, really, and likely more appropriately, "pottering and doddering," to borrow from Fitzgerald--before a steel band rehearsal in the arts center (so it would have been a Friday), and I wandered a moment into the museum.  I wasn't aware of the museum's temporary acquisition of a Bloch, nor did I have any reasonable expectation what his "real-life" paintings were even like, and so I wasn't at all prepared for what happened next.  I walked in, turned a corner, and there it was.  I remember my full arrest; I couldn't move.  I was shocked--stunned.  My eyes widened, and goosebumps crawled like fire ants up and down my arms and neck.

Like I said: I'd seen the painting before.  I'd always appreciated the painting.  Being one who, at the time, was anticipating a career in illustration, I prided myself (and with only, in retrospect, the slightest justification) on my general ability to recognize and appreciate the finer of the painterly works.  But this....  This was staggering!  (And now I will stop gushing.)

Since then, I've recognized Bloch as a genius.  (While I don't think anyone will doubt that he is, the assertion does raise an interesting tangent:  is it that those whom I'd admire also happen frequently to be geniuses, or is it that because I admire them, I think they're geniuses?)  So when I came across a new observation--or new to me, anyway--I was amazed, of course, at the brilliance of Bloch, but also that maybe I was actually right in the first place, that this guy's a genius.

In an article in an LDS magazine, The Ensign, by David Frischnecht, "The Condescension of Jesus Christ," (pdf with images here) the newness was revealed to me, and it's simple.  And I will let the art speak for itself.  The paintings in question are Bloch's iterations of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, respectively, below.  Look at the two pictures.  Imagine them one overlaying the other, particularly with the forms of Christ superimposing each other.  Notice the posture arms, the feet, the curve of the spine.

I'm awed, and I invite your thoughts.

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