Notre Dame Cathedral Drawing

Notre Dame Cathedral: Beauty in Flames

A few days before Easter we all watched in shock as fire enveloped a great monument of Christian architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. Just a few days before I had discussed with my two homeschool co-op classes about Pope Benedict XVI’s charge to be “custodians of beauty”. In his address to artists in 2009 he tasked artists with the responsibility of being “custodians of beauty”. I strongly believe the call is to all of us.

Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands… Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world.

Pope Benedict XVI

One older woman in this news story from The Guardian phrased it this way,  “Think of the all people who built it over centuries, and on our watch we let it burn.”

I visited many Gothic cathedrals in England and across Europe when I was young. My father took two sabbaticals in England and took us to every cathedral within a two hour drive of Cambridge, where we lived. At the time I found it tedious, but now I see it as my first glimpse of how art can be used for the service of God. On one of those sabbaticals we visited Paris, and Notre Dame.
I wasn’t Catholic on any of these trips. Later I traveled across Europe during my Junior Study Abroad at Gordon College. My conversion to Roman Catholicism was partly due my experiences of the beauty of the sacred art and architecture of Europe. As a result I know firsthand the power of beauty to move hearts and souls for Christ. 

Bishop Barron’s video discussing the Notre Dame Rose Window explains this very well.

What is Gothic Architecture?

Perhaps you recognize Notre Dame as a monument of Gothic architecture, or perhaps you only know it as a “famous church”. I found this video very helpful in introducing some of the architectural concepts and vocabulary that set Gothic architecture apart from other styles.

Focus and Fancy

I spent most of the last year in driven focus on completing a series of oil paintings based on the architectural images and metaphors I found in our last trip to Italy. Since the exhibit “Divine Dimensions” opened at 20North Gallery in Toledo last week I have been busy with a stomach bug, Easter, and a few opportunities to take a deep breath.

But I can’t stay out of the studio for too long, and the question always becomes “what next”? What is my new focus?

In order to find it I need to permit myself follow whatever artistic whims I might have. On Tuesday I needed to make watercolors of early morning landscape. On Thursday it was this drawing of Notre Dame. For a moment these two things feel scattered and unrelated, but I have painted landscapes and drawn architecture for decades now. It is a form of anchoring myself to my time and place. Accepting that I need to un-focus and play in order to find the next path is hard for me, even as I grow to understand my process more and more as I get older.

notre dame drawing in process
Last Monday I gathered with friends from our local parish to pray ask Our Lady to pray for the power of beauty to change hearts and fill them with grace. The prayer continues. 

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