Wednesday, November 24, 2004

London Day 6

After a river tour, it was off to the Tate Britain.

The Tate Brit. is Pre-Raph central. But I'd like to mention George Frederick Watts. Compare his Love and Life, where love personified gently guides the pilgrim, with Mammon, where greed-drunken followers lie slain by their master. Regarding the latter, Watts said he wished to turn the painted figure of Mammon into a scultpture and place it in the center of Hyde Park in London. He hoped that "at least its followers would be honest enough to bow their knees publically to it." A bit sentimental perhaps, but consider the other extreme...

More DAY 6...
In the modern wing of the Tate Brit. I had a painful flashback to my Modern Art History textbook. Paula Rego is a very disturbed woman. That the Art World has lionized her as it has is an indication of how disturbed the art world is. Sure they show you the nice paintings on the website, but most of her works are explicit "explorations" of such glorious themes as insest and abortion.

I watched an extensive interview with her that the Tate was playing continuously. Most of the people viewing it with me left, shall we say, a bit dejected. I stayed until the end to try to find some redeeming quality, but I waited in vain. Modern Art and the Death of a Culture was right.

Pre-Raphaelites anyone?

But things changed in the next room. The most intersesting artists of the modern movement in my opinion have always been the dissenters, like Stanely Spencer. Seminary folks may recognize his work from the cover of a certain textbook. My favorite was this painting of his on the Resurrection which covered almost an entire wall. It's massive, and utterly explicit in theme: The resurrection of the body as it will occur when the Eschaton comes around to Spencers "holy suburb," his English hometown.

Now Spencer was no saint, and could get as graphic as Rego, but with massive unapologetic paintings about the resurrection I tend to be a bit more forgiving.

Then it was off to the attic of Western civilization, The British Museum. I actually went there three times while in London, and didn't scratch the surface. Having been a world empire in an age of discovery has its advantages. Want to see the Parthenon sculptures? You'll have to go to the British Museum. The real Parthenon has only imitations. As you can imagine, Greece isn't too happy about that.

In the "Where are they now?" category... Ramesses II, perhaps the very man whom Moses confronted, you can find a monument to his once world-dominating empire here. Artifacts from the Assyrian Empire who sacked Jerusalem, here they lie. The Israelites however... you can actually still meet one of them. No wonder that when Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, asked his court chaplain for an argument for the existence of God, he gave the famous answer, "Your Majesty, the Jews."

If anyone gets excited about Druidism and those home-grown faiths that inhabited the British lands before St. Augustine came along, a glance at Bog-man might be of assistance. Had he survived his having become a human sacrifice, something tells me he wouldn't have been feeling that his indigenous culture was being smothered by those imperialist Christians.

And finally, go ahead and carve a "Chi Rho" into your silverware at dinner tonight. Perhaps centuries from now that will be all that survives to tell future archealogists that you were, if you are, a Christian. At least that's what happened with this discovery, showing researchers that Christianity was disseminated in Britain a lot earlier than they had thought.