More than homage – sacred art in the 20th-century

It is sometimes said that we live in a post-Christian era.  I wonder about that.  One of the things that makes me wonder is contemporary sacred art, something that my Protestant childhood didn’t really tell me about.

The modern artist in sacred art is pressured as never before in circumstances that change at a bewildering pace.  S/he creates from anguish.  Perhaps the images of Christ from this anguish are enigmatic and strange.

This image of Christ is by the Mexican artist Sequericos.  I find it powerful though the visage has sadness.

This image of the meal at Emmaus is by the Polish artist Yugolski.  I find it quite expressionist with stylized figures.  The radiance draws the eye.

This relief image of the Last Supper done by a Greek artist in 1960 verges on abstract expression.  I find the movement prompted by the forms restless around the central figure of Christ which stands tall above the swirling lines.

Paul Klee, the Swiss-German artist, did this image of Christ the king in 1926.  I find the features delicate and the eyes, unrealistic as they are, hypnotic.

Bernard Buffet did a number of sacred images and this crucifixion scene in 1970.  It is said that the figure on the right is a self-portrait.

This image of the cricifixion by Italian artist Boudini is upsetting for me and he would probably feel, So it should be.  The traditional crucifixion scenes have held emotion.  This one screams in agony.

This delicate, even fragile image of the crucifixion is found on the altar in the chapel at Vence, in the South of France, designed by Henri Matisse.

This image of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali intrigues me in that the body of Christ is transparent and in the background you see the landscape that Dali knew as a child.

This image was also painted by Dali.  It seems to me that the lighting is electrical, judging from the shadow of the arm.  The hairstyle of the Christ figure is contemporary.  The agony of the back is for me unparalleled in the history of art.

Epstein produced this sculpture of Christ in bondage in the 1950s and it is set in the ruins of cathedral at Coventry that was bombed in the Second World War.  It is a departure from traditional images of Christ.  There is for me an ancient primitive force here, reminding me of images from central America and Africa.  I spent time looking at this figure and the experience has inspired me to do this blog.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019



Some of these images come from a book named “He had a face”, though I do not have the book with me at present and will add in the details at a future date.

I have had other images before computers became public and have lost the sources.


The artist is Wimmer, a German.  The year is 1951.  I find this image haunting in that, if the body is tortured, the face stands the pain.


PAUL KLEE – the otherness of art

Bern, Switzerland

I remember the clock tower in Bern, Switzerland, the trams and the almost Piedmontese arches in the architecture.  On the way to the Paul Klee Foundation, I grabbed a cup of coffee at a café where there was an unusually large photograph of Albert Einstein on the wall.  It is in Bern, the café owner informed me, that Einstein rounded off the Theory of Relativity.

Albert Einstein, 1904

In the Paul Klee Foundation I stood before the original paintings.  As a twelve-year-old I saw them in an art book, the beginning of a lifelong interest.

Blue Pyramid

A Swiss-German, Paul Klee was a musician, poet, academic and a philosopher in art theory.  His work has been linked with various art movements, but, as has often been said, his work resists any simplistic opinions.  His art is an otherness.


His book “On Modern Art” (1925) has been compared with the writings of Leonardo da Vinci.

“Senecio”, 1922

When his art was mocked, along with many other “decadent” artists in 1937 in Nazi Germany, Klee returned to Switzerland.  This rejection weighed heavily on his mind until his death in 1940 at the age of 61.

Paul Klee, 1911

With Klee’s paintings and especially his drawings you are never far from irony, even a playful spirit.  The captions of his canvases are cryptic, witty.  And for me — I’m supposed to be colour blind — he is a master of colour.  The calling to colour came to him during a reconnaissance in Tunisia.  He became a leading figure amongst modernists in the creative use of colour, breaking long traditions.  Picasso himself had great respect for what Klee did.

The Garden at Lu – , 1939

I sat for a long time looking at “The Garden at Lu – ”  The icon forms rising from dream blue is for me one of the most peaceful images in the storms of modern art.

Fire in the Evening, 1929

“I will not be understood in this world,” he said, probably depressed by the events of the late-1930s, the last years of his life.  But if appreciation and love of his work may be seen as understanding, then Paul Klee was, with respect, wrong.

Nocturnal Growth


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2018



Werner Haftmann :  The Mind and Work of Paul Klee.  Faber and Faber. London, 1967.

Will Grohman :  Paul Klee.  Lund Humphries.  London, 1969.




Paintings by Klee from Will Grohman : Paul Klee

Bern – TourismSwiss

Albert Einstein –





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