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Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness- a manifestation of the sublime in art

[ USA ] The artistic presentation of religious and mythological figures and events is not new to the planet earth. Poets, painters and composers have done it repeatedly in their respective creations adding their own typical and quintessential touch. Be it the Last Supper by the great Leonardo Da Vinci or the immortal David by the maestro Michaelangelo- these classic pieces of art always occupy a special place in the minds of the onlooker.

The latest addition to this list is the painting titled- Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness by Sir Anthony Van Dyck that has been installed in the Houston Baptist University.

Sir Anthony belonged to the school of arts named Flemish Baroque, an art form produced during the late 16th century, when the Dutch Republic split from the Habsburg Spain regions. A major feature of Flemish Baroque is the immense influence of the historic facts and characters and religious aspects that changed the course of the world.

This portrait of Saint John by Sir Anthony Van Dyck is donated by William and Sharon Morris and is installed in the Belin Chapel in the Morris Cultural Arts Center on the Houston Baptist University campus.

Elated with the contribution, the President of Houston Baptist University, Robert B. Sloan Jr observed, “We are honored that William and Sharon, whose pursuit of truth and beauty is reflected in their passion for fine art, have entrusted the University with this very special gift.'

He further added, “In this magnificent work, we witness a painting whose sublime rendering of the human capacity for sacrifice and resolution is a testament to the Morrises and their faith, as well as the faith that underpins our mission and work at HBU (Houston Baptist University)."

This recent development is very significant and closely associated with the main objective of the University. Houston Baptist University is an independent, private Christian liberal arts institution with a diverse student body. The University is dedicated to the all around development of the intellectual, the social and the spiritual lives of its students.

In this connection, one of the donors, Sharon Morris said, “If its presence here on campus brings HBU students to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, that would give us the most joy we could ever hope for."

This particular painting shows Saint John going through a scripture with the focus and trance that is no less than sublime. Clad in a red cloth, his appearance is so aesthetically presented that it inspires awe and respect at the same time. Sir Van Dyck was a past master in human presentation of religious subjects with a composed elegance and feel. Going by the artistic quality of the painting, no critic would help admiring the stunning tonal composition and use of carefully chosen colours.

The real connoisseurs of art, beyond the barrier of genre, time and taste will find a call for Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness. Spirituality is something that comes from within and it might take any form- a ballad, a sculpture, a tune and in this case a portrait. The craftsmanship and the care with which this painting is created shows how much the soul of the artist was at work during its formation.

A value addition for the state of Houston.

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