Roundup: Georges Rouault, “The Exultant Leper,” and more

LECTURE: “Georges Rouault and the Art of Sacred Engagement” by Fr. Terrence Dempsey, SJ: “From his earliest works, Georges Rouault [1871–1958] selected subjects that combined a strong religious conviction together with a concern for suffering humanity. This lecture by MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey, S.J., offers an overview of Rouault’s work, including his paintings, prints, and stained glass. Dempsey presents Rouault as an artist who, from his early work through his mature work, remained concerned about the disadvantaged, the outsiders, and the victims of war, and who linked all of these people to the suffering of Christ. In this way, Rouault’s engagement with the world was not so much political (although one can find political tones in his work) as it was sacred. It involved the totality of who we are—corporeal and spiritual.”

Rouault is a favorite artist of mine. I got to see his entire Miserere et Guerre (“Have mercy,” a quotation from Psalm 51, and “War”) series of etchings in person a few years ago, and it’s phenomenal. Every Christian needs to know this series. I recommend a copy of This Anguished World of Shadows: George Rouault’s Miserere et Guerre for all bookshelves.

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ART VIDEO: “The Story About the Painting Called The Exultant Leper: Wilder Adkins shared this video with me of his uncle Les Smith interpreting a painting he owns before his congregation last summer at Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He commissioned it from artist Brian Whelan, to depict the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers from Luke 17:11–19. Sadly, Smith passed away last month.

Whelan, Brian_The Exultant Leper
Brian Whelan (Irish, 1957–), The Exultant Leper, 2021. Mixed media on canvas. Private collection.

Smith said he requested the title “The Exultant Leper” and asked that it appear on the painting itself. “I am the exultant leper,” he says, pointing to the figure at the bottom right. “I am the guy who better always be at the feet of Jesus giving thanks.”

While I have certainly seen and shared plenty of academic presentations on art (such as the one on Rouault above), there is something so special about hearing ordinary folks (that is, nonspecialists) share with others art that is personally meaningful to them—and more than that, in this case, that they helped bring to fruition. Smith’s enthusiasm was such that even his neighborhood trash collectors have been invited into his home to enjoy the piece! I love that he took the step of supporting a living artist by commissioning an original artwork, and that he integrated that art into his home life, displaying it above his mantle, where he would see it daily and be reminded of his own story of transformation through Christ.

(P.S. Last fall on Instagram and Facebook I shared a standout painting of Whelan’s from the 8th Catholic Arts Biennial at the Verostko Center for the Arts at Saint Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania: https://www.instagram.com/p/CVS6tlagy8s/; https://www.facebook.com/artandtheology/posts/1582166995476777.)

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CROSS-DISCIPLINARY VIDEO PRESENTATION: “Psalms in Dialogue: (Be)Holding the Broken Pieces”: I shared Duke’s first “Psalms in Dialogue” in October 2020. Here’s their second offering in the same vein. “In this online presentation [which premiered October 2, 2021], Duke University Chapel and the Duke Chapel Choir will welcome visual artist Makoto Fujimura, theologian Dr. Ellen Davis, Tap Legacy Foundation co-founder Andrew Nemr, Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet, and dancer Paiter van Yperen for an evening of creativity and conversation inspired by the biblical Psalms. In the program, artists, musicians, theologians, singers, and dancers will present performances and works inspired by five Psalms: 46, 88, 90, 91, and 92.” I particularly enjoyed the teen ballet number choreographed by Elisa Schroth to Karl Jenkins’s “Healing Light: A Celtic Prayer” at 52:18 (lyrics below).

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Amen

Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you

Amen

Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world, to you
Deep peace of Christ to you
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world, to you

Amen

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SONGS:

>> “Fill My Cup” by Thad Cockrell, feat. The New Respects: This song appears on Cockrell’s album If in Case You Feel the Same (2020); an older version is on Alone Together (2016) under the title “Walking to a City.”

>> “Victory of Christ” by Cory Dauber: Cory Dauber is a member of the Deeper Well Gospel Collective, a group of musicians and songwriters in the Portland, Oregon, area who are connected to Door of Hope church. Last year Dauber released his second full-length album, May All Times Go to You. This song appears on his debut album, Turn into a Mountain (2016).

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