Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Importance of Beauty in Catholic Life

An interview with artist Daniel Mitsui:
Catholicism is traditional. It contends that the Apostles received a Revelation almost two thousand years ago; their witness was preserved in a law of worship which establishes our law of belief. This idea affects every aspect of Catholic life, including art. The conviction of Catholic artists, everywhere at least through the Middle Ages, was that they were preserving an ancient memory; this was succinctly expressed at the Second Council of Nicea: The composition of religious imagery is not left to the initiative of artists, but is formed upon principles laid down by the Catholic Church and by religious tradition ... The execution alone belongs to the painter; the selection and arrangement of subject belong to the Fathers.

Of course, there is development in Catholic art over time. St. Vincent of Lerins says that authentic development of tradition is like the growth of a body; it looks different in maturity than in infancy, but it has all the same parts. When I draw a scene from the Gospels, I study depictions of the same scene in the work of ancient and medieval Catholic artists. I look for selections and arrangements of subject that endure across historic and geographic boundaries, and perpetuate them as a matter of duty. Doing so makes me a participant in a tradition that stretches back to the very beginnings of Christianity. That is an awesome privilege.
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