[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Reverence in Art

21 November 1997


a.gif (1076 bytes)cknowledging the occasional blasphemous work in contemporary paintings, the Rev. Kevin A. Seasoltz, O.S.B., speaking at The Catholic University of America yesterday, said that reverence for Jesus in art has grown "despite the decline of organized religion in our time."

Seasoltz' talk, "Images of Jesus: A Theological Evaluation of Selected Non-Verbal Symbols,"was the inaugural lecture for The Very Reverend Walter J. Schmitz, S.S., Chair of Liturgical Studies. The Schmitz Chair was established within the university's Department of Theology, through a bequest from the estate of Father Schmitz, who died in 1994.

Of Jesus images in the early church, Seasoltz said: "The New Testament had left no account of the physical appearances of Christ. In fact, gospel claims went beyond the possibility of any visual symbols. How could an artist interpret Christ's claim, 'Before Abraham was, I am,' or 'He who has seen me has seen the Father,' or 'I am the alpha and the omega.'

"Certainly Christ's image has not been so prominent as it was in the romanesque, gothic, renaissance periods," said Seasoltz. "But in the modern period, and especially in the present century, there has been a great variety of portrayals of Jesus produced in modern cultures, especially non-European cultures."

Seasoltz cited the work of Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, an Australian aboriginal; Arthur Boyd, also of Australia; Marc Chagall, a Jew; and Stanley Spencer's paintings currently in the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington.

The program included the awarding of a Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Ralph A. Wells III, a long-time Washington-area resident with a distinguished career in real estate development and devoted service to the Catholic Church.

Wells, a member of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., was a close friend to Father Schmitz for more than 50 years.

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Revised: 21 November 1997

All contents copyright 1997.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.