//Views, Reviews and Previews

Views, Reviews and Previews

Art

 

Modigliani

Tate Modern

until April 2nd, 2018

 

He was shy, passionate, darkly handsome and sensitive – women adored Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). His mistress Jeanne Hébeturne loved him so much that within a few days of his early death brought on by drink, drugs and a weak constitution, she committed suicide. She was carrying their second child.

Not only did Modigliani look the part he was in fact a sensuous painter of the female nude and a lover of poetry. He was the quintessential struggling artist. But unlike other artists in Paris at the time the poetry he loved was of the last century. He never fully embraced any of the modern turns such as Cubism or Futurism. He was never at the curing edge like Picasso or a Matisse or a Brancusi, never a Fauve, let alone a Surrealist. He painted nineteenth century portraits in twentieth century dress.

Critical opinion on Modigliani has always split between those who love the colour and the sensuality and the easy read of his work, and those who thought him a Modernist for the Middle Brow. Tate – it has now re-branded itself to be alongside Kate and Kim and Kanye – has done its best to strip away the myths and reveal Modigliani as a great artist. And it has given us a comprehensive well-curated selection of his paintings and sculptures. But the clue to Modigliani’s standing hides in the catalogue.   

The essays here are clear, straightforward and short. They are also like ancient history – they bring to bear everything they can on their chosen topic because there’s precious little known or to be said about the man himself. So, read the article on the development of make-up in the first two decades of the twentieth century for all sorts of interesting snippets, but once you’ve got that some of Modigliani’s women are wearing make-up there doesn’t seem much more to be said. Next there’s the article on the influence of cinema on Modigliani. It beautifully traces the growth of picture palaces in Paris and notes which ones Modigliani lived near. It suggests that the use of titles in silent films influenced the Cubists. And It records the one time when Modigliani is known to have gone to the cinema. His companion on that occasion, the bi-sexual Beatrice Hastings, born in Hackney and lover of Katherine Mansfield, wrote that once in the cinema he never looked at the screen. Instead he made love to her.

If those original pieces of Tate research tell us very little, there is at least one interesting article, that on Modiglani and his nudes. Modiglani’s usp has long been his depiction of pubic hair which famously led a local inspector of police to close down his most successful exhibition. So the notes in the gallery say. Except the catalogue makes clear the show quickly opened again and as a contemporary put it, nothing was more likely to raise an artist’s status than to be closed down for indecency. And for all the naughtiness of the rounded nudes, and the uncomfortable expressions of some of the sitters, Modigliani is not as sensual as Ingres, or as obscene as Schiele or as plain discomforting as Manet. There’s not much point in Tate’s lament that he wasn’t a metrosexual, but he wasn’t really a bad boy either.  

The struggle by academics to say very much at all about Modigliani’s legacy perhaps says it all. Yet, it’s worth having a look at the show and different people will take different things from it. The lover of Modigliani’s work will be well-satisfied with an excellent display. The seeker of influences can have fun spotting the artists he copied – Munch, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Ingres (but not Braque or Picasso or the contemporary greats). And the asker of unanswered questions can ask why were Pierrots so popular? Did Modigilani know there was a war on? Could he have ever broken out of his exaggeratedly classical, hieractic, long-necked, off-centre faced, blue eyed, pared-down shapes or had he lived longer would he have become another Chagall, imprisoned in his limited range? Did he give up the sculpture because of the cost (no, he nicked most of his materials), or for his health (maybe) or (most interestingly) because like Matisse it was a sideline which helped him to understand what he was drawing?

And there are some good pictures though not all of them were appreciated by their sitters. Jean Cocteau refused to take possession of the portrait Modigliani made of him, relenting after the painter’s death to say, “It does not look like me, but it does look like Modigliani, which is better.” ‘The Amazon’, the Baroness Marguerite de Hass de Villers after a protracted and very difficult series of sessions with the artist also refused his painting of her, partly because he painted her red jacket as yellow. Yet the finished work – there is only a sketch in the show – has remarkable character and strength. It’s not a typical Modigliani but it has sparkiness and life. Maybe, in the end he was a man of his times, just not a modern artist.

Owen Higgs

 

Books

 

PRIEST OF NATURE

The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton

Rob Iliffe

Oxford University Press 522pp

ISBN 978-0199995356 £22.99

‘He vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race!’ So translates the choir screen monument epitaph adjacent to its graphic globe honouring gravity theorist Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in Westminster Abbey.

Rob Iliffe’s Priest of Nature is a study of ‘the religious worlds of Isaac Newton’ based on documents recently made accessible that reveal the ‘utterly original but obsessively private religion’ of this dominant intellectual figure of his age. Newton was born in 1642, strikingly as the English Civil War started, with an ‘uncommon spirit of liberty’ which eventually came to possess him as a thinker and a Christian pushing at age old authority. His amazing capacity of thought bore fruit in his Principia securing him high postings at Cambridge, the Royal Mint and the Royal Society but his thinking also extended to Christian origins and a ruthless challenging of tradition. Since his death attention to the exact nature of his religious beliefs has been delayed both by dismissal of their significance among his fellow scientists and embarrassment at their heretical elements among his fellow Christians. In a definitive work Oxford’s Professor of History puts the record straight with a biography of Newton that engages with ‘the spiritual views of the man who fundamentally changed how we look at the universe’.

Notebooks from Newton’s youth evidence a personal relationship with God confessing ‘he had not loved God for his goodness’. Iliffe documents the strict religious discipline at Trinity College, Cambridge where he became a fellow in 1656 and Newton’s lifelong adherence to the Church of England, save during its suspension during the Commonwealth. Although he despised Roman Catholics he was critical of Deists at the other end of the Christian spectrum with their dismissal of revealed truth and organised religion. Scripture was vital and vitalising to him and he rejoiced in the availability of the Greek New Testament and bible concordances which set him up to pursue assiduously the history of salvation from Creation to Apocalypse. He did this in as focused a way as he pursued his Optics and Mathematics, rehearsing again and again a conviction that true understanding was only granted by God. ‘As Newton put it, it was difficult for the wise to understand the truths of religion, given that they were so “prepossest” with their own imaginations and too engrossed with worldly designs. Ultimately, true understanding of prophecy was a gift of God; if the wise were to understand, they had to purify themselves from sin before they could accept God’s offer’. Part of this purification he saw, paradoxically, as countering the imagination which he saw as a destructive call towards idolatry, idleness and lust. Though so creative and full of imagination he warns repeatedly against the latter, one of many paradoxes about this great thinker.

Another paradox is that though God, Scripture and the Church were Newton’s prime orbit his religious studies took him away from mainstream Christian belief.  Iliffe notes how weak late 16th century Anglicanism was in its Trinitarian apologetic. Newton’s poor formation in that Faith might explain his readiness to identify the Great Apostasy in the book of Revelation with the 4th century work of Athanasius, Anthony and others helping formulate Trinitarian Faith. Though devoted to Christ Newton told one of his contemporaries ‘Christ had reformed, that is, restored the religion of Moses – itself a restoration of those true elements of worship that were embedded within the Egyptian religion’. This ignorance of the unique faith of the Church through the ages may be a result of confusion in lay catechesis flowing from the Reformation with disagreements on ecclesiology having implications for Christology. Newton’s particular pursuit of truth in scripture contrasts though with his peers who were ready to see the prophetic voice of scripture interpreting contemporary events such as the execution of King Charles I, restoration of Charles II, vacation of the throne by James II and ascent to it of William and Mary. Newton’s anti-Catholicism was linked to the extraordinary understanding he had of the 4th not the 17th century, though he successfully stood as MP for Cambridge to counter James II’s promotion of Roman Catholics to lead at his university.

Priest of Nature as a title resonates with an elite concept of the priest as one bearing esoteric knowledge. Newton understood himself as such a priest with his Principia, understood by very few in its day, elite knowledge and he thought the same of his religious writings. Ironically the principle of consensus dear to Catholic truth in which individual contributions melt into ‘what seems good to the Holy Spirit and [the Church]‘ (Acts 15:28) was alien to such a single-minded adventurer. A flaw in his character was a suspicion of misrepresentation, linked to a litigious spirit, seen as a touch of paranoia isolating him from the wider network of thinkers. All the evidence is that his holding back his theological writings from publication was unrelated to their heretical nature but true to that caution evidenced in his scientific work. As his epitaph states Newton with his brilliance and humility was indeed ‘a great ornament of the human race’ but he seemed to know it! The contribution he made to the understanding of light and gravity seems irrevocable but that to theology, through hidden for over two centuries, is unlikely to be proven.

John Twisleton

 

Shandong – The Revival Province

Paul Hattaway

SPCK 2018 £9.99

ISBN 978-0-281-07888-2 293pp

There are indisputably 100 million Christians among China’s 1,400 million population. The growth of so many believers has come with much hardship and many miracles and most dramatically in the eastern coastal province of Shandong. This first of this series of China Chronicles covering church growth in Shandong comes from The Heavenly Man author, Paul Hattaway with a preface by Brother Yun. The series is aimed at the Church in China and overseas, evidencing the spiritual legacy of the last 160 years, building from Hattaway’s 30 year missionary service in China.

China Chronicles starts publication of God’s mighty acts there coincident with new persecution of the house church movement distances itself from state authorisation. Today such leaders are being imprisoned and their church buildings pulled down. For all of this the Evangelical movement can look back through centuries of persecution and hardship to ongoing resurrection of the body of Christ from occasions of despoliation. This phenomenon is especially evident in the easterly coastal province of Shandong,‘China’s Revival Province’ where 5 million residents identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ, 40 times more than when Communism arrived in 1949.

The book has chapters covering decade after decade from the 1860s to 2010s each full of graphic stories of miracles and healings alongside hardship and suffering. The stories seem to ring true even if they challenge western presuppositions with their matter of fact reporting of events like dead people being raised to life. Paul Hattaway has gathered some impressive testimonies that help make sense of the astonishing growth of the church in China. His sources are all Evangelical with rare mention of Catholics though the latter are included in the state approved figures for overall Christian allegiance in the appendix. This allegiance, extending beyond national allegiance, is perceived as a threat by the government. It traces back to heroic western missionaries like Lottie Moon, Marie Monsen and Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell.

Mao’s wife once said Christianity was dead and buried and now confined to the history section of the museum. This history is a most remarkable counter to that misjudgement. It contains stories of how periodic lukewarmness and apathy among believers is challenged by the Holy Spirit through holy pastors. It can’t but fuel the thought that if the Spirit can do this in China can’t he do the same for the moribund realms of western church life? This is a readable book with a good storyline providing the reader with a generous tonic to their faith expectation.

John Twisleton  

 

Healing Wounds in the Field Hospital of the Church

Eds. Alan Guile & Fr. Jim McManus CSsR

Gracewing 2017

ISBN: 9780852449189

I have been impressed by this recent publication of essays, which successfully combine applied theology with a profound humaneness of insight. In April 2015 Oscott Roman Catholic College held a symposium inspired by His Holiness Pope Francis’s then still recently expressed vision of God’s church as, ‘a field-hospital after a battle.’ It is the Holy Father’s belief that a Church’s offering the ‘medicine of mercy’ serves to tend and relieve the frequently deep and invisible wounds of God’s people which succeed only in impeding their relationship with Him. The authors’ summation is that healing and reconciliation both mental and otherwise are the responsibility of His whole Church.

The scope of the text is broad, yet accessible. The twenty chapters discuss the healing ministry of the church both in its various types and its various contexts. For example, those with specific ministries to children and young people write in detail of their experiences alongside them in the ‘binding-up’ process ensuing from cases of neglect, attachment issues and loss, to cite but three aspects of the wide remit of this work. Further, there are explorations of inter-generational healing within the family unit as it has been manifested through the offering of the Mass; a brief but important chapter on exorcism and deliverance ministry by those directly experienced in it, moving in later sections to overviews of healing and evangelisation in prison amongst convicts, work done with victims of sexual abuse and the importance of the parish context in the outworking of recovery from trauma. Thought is also generously given to the roles of priest and laypersons within the ministration of healing and promotion of wholeness amongst the broken.

The book is generated from a fine experiential pedigree. Alan Guile felt called to give up his job as a professor of chemical engineering in 1984, in order to set up home in a new area and devote himself entirely to the ministry of prayer for interior healing. Six hundred people have visited him and his wife at their home since then, to be listened to and prayed with – not merely Catholics, but even he recalls, ‘one who had been a Buddhist [until he] came into the Church after prayer ministry.’ (p. 23.) Similarly the last forty years of Fr. Jim McManus’s priestly ministry have centred on developing programmes, retreats and courses focused on healing. Both men have written widely on the subject and express themselves cogently and compassionately concerning it. Their overviews are validated by the expert offerings of various contributors.

The book is strikingly ecumenical. We have HH the Pope’s exhortation to, ‘heal the wounds’ always before us, together with trenchant examples from scripture (Jesus’ attitude to healing) and liturgy (the prayers of the Church) to support the thesis offered by the book. What appears to rest at its heart however is that universal vocation of the baptised to evangelism. ‘Go forth and tell’ seems to be a suitable dictum for the propagation of all healing work, since the Gospel itself is ‘salvation for everyone who believes.’ (Rom 1.16)

I am impressed by the strong sacramental poise of the text, outlined transparently as it is in the opening chapters, wherein is also the biblical precedent for healing as well as the mandate of the Roman catechism. All of this strengthens the foundations of what are sustainably diverse and interesting discussions throughout.

There is much to commend the volume to the laity as well as to religious and those in diaconal or presbyteral orders. It is exciting that there is equal weight on discussions about both statuses; the religious and lay state treated as vocations entire in themselves. Once again, the emphasis continuously seems to spool back to our universal vocation as those baptised into Christ. Oneness and healing as ‘everybody’s pigeon’ cannot be understated in this reading. For the editors and their contributors both, the attainment of healing comes about when the Church is being Church: helping one another as God’s gathered people. Whatever our individual role or status then, we have to act as the agents of the healing we wish to see.     

Chapters are helpfully supported by the anecdotal examples and testimonials of those who have received or administered healing ministry in the area under particular discussion. These excerpts are deployed saliently; they are highly subjective and often emotive, and do much to sustain engagement with what might otherwise be a toilsome read. Narrative is ably balanced with statistics, and this varies the volume’s presentation and expands our thinking helpfully.  Because of the topical breadth of the essays, it is possible to connect with or discover an aspect of healing by which one is stimulated or even enthused.

Chapter nine on the healing of children and teenagers was of especial interest to me as someone with an education background. It is worth noting that the many practical explanations demonstrating resolution in individual cases in this and other discussions really help us to appreciate the seriousness of the subject. Whilst it is arguable that this might be overdone in the inclusion of appendices detailing two key stories referenced earlier, it is also good that publications are beginning to give credible voice to the notions of ‘need’ and ‘condition’ and searching to bring amelioration and relief to them. This in itself is timely; Anne’s story and the reconciliation of the Cenecolo brother with his parents should encourage us to reflect on our own brokenness and our need for the mercy of God.  

Healing often falls foul of denominationalism. Guile and McManus remind us with fresh and insightful teaching that we ought all to be ‘evangelical,’ and their book promotes this vision for the betterment of a Church and world which earnestly needs to see and believe.

Br.Marc Voase CR  

 

Book of the month

EARTHLY GLORY

Five Lost Churches of Bradford

Wallace Cooper and Stephen Savage

Private publication. No ISBN. 126 pages.

£7 (inc post) from Mr W. Cooper, 8 Hornbeam Court, Oxford Road, Guiseley, Leeds LS20 9BW.

Having ministered for fifteen happy years in one of Bradford’s Anglo-Catholic parishes I am delighted by this reminder of fine priests and laypeople I knew or had heard about.  Fr Ron Bullivant has done a great service in persuading Wallace Cooper and Stephen Savage to write such a lively and informative book, and The Anglo-Catholic History Society to support it. The six pages devoted to the millworker and inspiring missioner, Joseph Kershaw, who preached in the open air despite barracking, and opened a mission church in Holy Trinity parish are alone worth the price of the book.

The parishes described here, St Jude’s, St Mary Magdalene’s and Holy Trinity fell victim, like many inner city churches, to what the authors gently call ‘the changing demographic structure’ as people arrived from abroad, but their stories deserve to be remembered, not only for their pioneering teaching of the Catholic Faith in Bradford, but because those nineteenth and twentieth century priests and people have much to tell us about the mission of parishes today. There is much to inform and entertain. All three parishes were built in poor districts to evangelise and serve, and this they did. St Jude’s was the first church in Bradford to abolish pew rents and turn the nave into ‘a free and open space for everyone’, despite opposition (where will the money come from without them?). In 1845 Fr Eddowes pulled off the pew doors and declared the church free.

We are taken back into all the fun of the Anglo-Catholic world, into its battles with bishops and Kensitites, though not many went as far as the priest hoping to be appointed St Jude’s who was imprisoned in 1864 for attempting to shoot a judge. Fr Fullerton’s sermons are recalled, including his cautionary tale about the young lady who yawned during a sermon and dislocated her jaw. And Fr Branscombe’s advice that the ladies of St Mary Magdalene’s should wear lace veils or scarves rather than ‘a hat resembling a parasol or a large inverted shallow basin’. We are reminded of the old protestant confrontations, like the delay in consecrating St Mary Magdalene’s until ‘Catholic ceremonial, the vestments and other artifacts were banished from the church’ because it was designed, they claimed, as ‘a perfect Mass house’. Protestant agitators shouted out in Services and Sunday School, and bricks were thrown through the windows. The Protestant Reformation Society employed an agent to visit peoples’ homes to contradict the teaching given at St Jude’s. Needless to say it was the palpable holiness of the priests and their marvellous pastoral care, especially of poor people, that eventually won the respect of previously unsympathetic bishops and townspeople. So the daily Mass, reservation, confession, vestments, incense, statues, candles and crosses, ashes and palms, and all ‘catholic privileges’ were gradually introduced and the churches were filled with people.

Most of the converts came from the parish, and these churches were not generally eclectic. But their influence spread far and wide, so much so that the first church-plant took place in 1862 when fifty or sixty people, who had formed a Guild to promote devotion and good works in Bradford’s low Parish Church, and who sang in the choir, taught in Sunday School, held night classes and conducted Mission Services decamped as a body to enrich the life of St Jude’s. The curates too moved off to Anglo-Catholic parishes. Not for years did Anglo-Catholics get the bishop they deserved; Bishop Blunt, who said in 1931 ‘When I went to Bradford I found Anglo-Catholics feeling frozen out. I did a good deal to get on terms with them’.

The priests were seen early each day praying in their churches, and they became notable teachers. One observer recorded Father Redhead catechising the children about John the Baptist in St Mary Magdalene’s in June 1894. Five points were committed to memory, first that John obeyed God, that he took second place, that he preached repentance, boldly rebuked vice, and died a martyr. After that they sang a hymn and were required to repeat the lessons they learned the previous week, four points from the Gospel and five reasons to be kind to animals. In their Confirmation classes today how many youngsters are required to grapple with the Athanasian Creed and the heresies of Apollinarianism and Nestorius, as they were at Holy Trinity? ‘We were, I think’, wrote Father Arnold, ‘well-alive to the task of winning others for the Lord’. Anticipating the Vatican Council he went on, we had ‘a sense of being the Holy People of God – a closely knit band, in which there was no marked distinction between clerical and lay.  The laity did so much not only practical work … but spiritual work too’. Joseph Kershaw was not alone in preaching in the streets. Pageants, processions and plays were part of the strategies. Like St Philip Neri they realised that Services simpler than Mass were required to convert people, and as he did they encouraged good music.

Like Pope Francis, the Anglo-Catholics wanted a ‘Church of the poor for the poor’. This was the heart of their life, to preach the Good News to the poor. The energetic Father Eddowes persuaded Sisters of the Community of All Saints from Margaret Street to open a convent in 1873, where they ‘lived as poorly as the people around’ St Jude’s.  At first the locals were suspicious of them, but the quality of their lives and selfless service quickly quelled the opposition. They opened a hostel for young women working in the factories and went on to found two schools. One was for ‘ragged children’ because so many were malnourished, and the other was fee-paying. The latter became Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, and the sisters then turned the empty building into a hospital where they nursed: eventually it became Bradford Children’s Hospital, which only closed in 1987. Fr Branscombe urged the poor in St Mary Magdalene’s to remember the Works of Mercy, and to put money in the Poor Box for those who were practically starving through a slump in trade.

The best Bishop that Sheffield never had, Philip North, in his hard-hitting address to New Wine, criticised the hike in fees for funerals and weddings that ‘calmly priced the poor out of the ministry of the Church’. It was the same in 1872, so Fr Eddowes abolished all fees for banns, weddings and funerals, asking for a voluntary offering instead ‘so that in every sense the church would be free’. A century later in Bradford I found couples living together because they could not afford a wedding, so SMACO was formed ‘St Margaret of Antioch’s Catering Organisation’. With generous discounts from a wedding car company and a photographer, and permission from the Bishop to waive fees, we provided choral weddings for 100 guests, including a splendid reception prepared and served by parishioners, for £100.

Long before the days of ecumenism, in 1912 when General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, died, Father Branscombe spoke of his ‘love for the poor and outcast and his zeal and love of the Lord’. ‘I own that I feel thoroughly ashamed of myself as a Catholic priest, when I measure my life at the side of such a one’. But Canon Fenton Morley, the Vicar of Leeds, detected a difference between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals on this, explaining to the people of Holy Trinity that whereas Anglo-Catholics lived and worked amongst the poor, evangelicals generally established voluntary societies and aroused public attention.

Michael Rear

2018-10-23T12:07:41+00:00 March 2018 Articles|