Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) (whose anniversary of birth is today) is an artist whose paintings are particularly evocative to me. Cezanne was an inspiration for my art teacher at Barnard Castle School, Douglas Pittuck. I was no artist but Mr Pittuck encouraged us to appreciate art, and one day took a party of school boys to the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle to see an exhibition of his favourite artist. Like Cezanne Douglas Pittuck had an eye for unusual detail, and a keeness to draw and paint whenever he could. As we school boys struggled with art in the art room Mr Pittuck would sit encouraging us with his characteristic sense of humour, and drawing objects in the art room and us school boys drawing.
I am delighted that in my study in the Rectory hangs a sketch of schoolboys in the art room given to me by Douglas Pittuck. Pittuck painted with passion. One afternoon I visited him in his studio and noticed a painting of a group of grotesque faces. What were they? He explained he had been so angered by the South African Apartheid government’s position he simply had had to draw the heads of the South African cabinet in that way. It is told of Cezanne how he would spend hours over tiny detail. His painting was intense engagement with what he saw.
Such artists as Paul Cezanne and my own art master from school guide me to look with a different eye at the world around me. They inspire me to be open to God’s Word imprinted in what is around me. As Thomas Merton writes such people encourage us to see the world, and each other, and ourselves, as ‘not merely material… but spiritual through and through…’ I will go out for a walk today with this in mind!