|Krishna and Radha in a Pavilion|
National Museum, New Delhi
It strikes me how many of these paintings have religious themes. In this most secularised of cultures, how can people relate to such art if they don't know the stories and the meanings behind them - if they can't see beyond the layers of pigment and colour to detect the shimmer of grace within?
Madonna di Loreto (1604-1606)
George Steiner, literary critic and agnostic Jew, writes that great art is ‘touched by the fear and ice of God’, whether that arises from a sense of the presence of God or, in our own time, from the ‘overwhelming weight’ of the absence of God. Steiner writes,
where God’s presence is no longer a tenable supposition and where His absence is no longer a felt, indeed overwhelming weight, certain dimensions of thought and creativity are no longer attainable. ... It is only when the question of the existence or non-existence of God will have lost all actuality, it is only when, as logical positivism teaches, it will have been recognized and felt to be strictly nonsensical, that we shall inhabit a scientific-secular world. Educated opinion has, to a greater or lesser degree, entered upon this new freedom. For it, emptiness is precisely and only that.Peter Fuller, the atheist art critic who acknowledged a debt to Steiner, similarly insists that art is only possible before an open horizon of transcendent possibility. He writes of the ‘palpable and yet mysterious presence of art itself’ and of the crisis created for art and cultural life by the experience described in Matthew Arnold’s poem of ‘the long-withdrawing roar' of 'the Sea of Faith' and the exposure of 'the naked shingles of the world’.
So, enjoy the pictures on this page, all of which have recently appeared on 'Art of the Day', but if you want to know what they mean, don't for heaven's sake go to Grayling's university.
(To read more on this theme, please see my paper 'Cathedral and the Visual Arts', and Chapter 8 of my book, The New Atheists).