Lent- Day 7: Suffering as muse.

The Scream



“No longer shall I paint interiors, and people reading, and women knitting. I shall paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love—I shall paint a number of pictures of this kind. People will understand the sacredness of it, and will take off their hats as though they were in church. I shouldn’t like to be without suffering. How much of my art I owe to suffering!”

-Edvard Munch (as quoted in George Heard Hamilton, Painting and Sculpture, 1880-1940, 1967 and Joy Schaverien, The revealing image: analytical art psychotherapy in theory and practice, 2009)


I’ve been studying Symbolism in the online modern art history course I’m taking. One of the featured painters is Munch who is best known for the painting above called “The Scream”. Munch dealt with depression, anxiety and even had to be hospitalized for a period.


Another artist I studied this week is Claude Monet, the famous Impressionist painter. The lesson focused on his large, three panel “Water Lilies”. What is so amazing is Monet created this vast work in his later years when his eyesight was severely limited by cataracts.


Last week, part of the lessons focused on the famously unstable and incredibly talented Vincent Van Gogh, known for painting “The Starry Night” and “Sunflowers”. What’s most fantastic about his career as a painter is that no only did he never recive formal training, he didn’t begin to paint until well into his twenties. He suffered from acute bouts of mental illness, emotional breakdowns culminating in his suicide at age 37. He left behind thousands of sketches, watercolors and oil paintings.


Suffering is not something we choose (those into “50 Shades” type stuff excepted), but it’s pretty much guaranteed in life in some form or other. So much of the book of Psalms contains pleas and prayers to God for an end to suffering. David (or other writers) begs for relief, and sometimes, in foreshadowing The Passion, asking God why has he abandoned him.


These chapters are distressing. They are also some of the finest works of prose ever recorded. They have comforted and strengthened countless readers over millenia. 


Reflection for the day: St. Paul links suffering with perseverance, building of character and a flowering of hope. Am I allowing my suffering to produce hope? Is that hope visible in the work I produce?

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