XV: Futility

Sorrow is a fruit.  God does not put it on limbs too weak to bear it.       Victor Hugo

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Morning Coffee with Barry Stebbing             

XV:  Futility

Self-Portrait by Kathe Kollwitz

Art is expression, simply an interpretation of how an artist sees life.  And very few artists have expressed their feelings like Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945).  Studying painting in a Berlin academy during the transition when French Impressionism was giving way to modern art, she stepped in between the two with a new style of art called Expressionism.  Though an exciting time to be a painter, she began focusing on drawing and printmaking, making her sentiments in stark black and white.  In her late twenties, her basic theme was that of mothers caring for and protecting their children.  However, it would soon turn to more sorrowful topics.  Her husband was a doctor working with impoverished families in a Berlin hospital.  It was there that Kathe began to see firsthand the human tragedies that would profoundly influence her art.  The pain over such suffering would become more personal after her youngest son was killed on the German front in World War I.  The sorrow of grieving mothers, deeply etched upon her heart, would now become her theme.  

During World War II, Kathe Kollwitz lost another loved one, her grandson fighting in the German army.  Her husband died the next year.  Then, in 1943 her home was bombed and totally destroyed, sinking her deeper and deeper into sorrow.  These stark black and white images, almost haunting, continued to poignantly express her message, as one can see in her self-portrait (above).        

Ecclesiastes 7:2 states “It is better to go into the house of sorrow than the house of mirth.” Certainly this scripture is much easier said than done.  Yet, it is in that deep dark abyss of misery where God can truly work on man.  In a way, a peculiar type of resurrection transpires as the human soul is tempered like silver in a furnace of earth.  Do we not see the fruit of  such suffering in Russian literature, the poetry of the Irish and the music that has come out of the ashes of Poland?  

The Widow  by Kathe Kollwitz      

I grew up knowing the face of poverty well.  Some of you may have experienced drug or alcohol addictions, and therefore can identify with hurting souls who are in a similar crisis.  Yet, there is a grief that goes so deep it can leave the one suffering with a sense of hopelessness.   I have always appreciated the three friends of Job who sat silently by his side for seven days and nights during his deepest despair.  For what is there to say when in the midst of such agony?       

Though Christ identifies with the suffering of man, He stands in contrast to the art of Kathe Kollwitz.  For He is as bright as the noon-day sun; not etched in black, but in the brilliance of God’s glory.  If we are alone, facing ineffable solitude and suffering, we still have a hope to press in, to wait for, to seek Christ at a deeper, richer level, resting in Him and taking comfort in His words.  For it is Christ who gives us beauty for ashes.  This is only one of many promises He desires to bestow on mankind.  Seek Him in your despair, while the shades are drawn, and take hold of these treasures, just as my wife did when she was dying from AML.  I am a witness of her resurrection as she lay in her deathbed, day after day pleading with God like a little child, praying through her tears and believing His promises.  Rejoice!  She, too, is risen from the grave.

The Resurrection by Carl Bloch

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Art Tid-Bit:  Carl Bloch (1834-1890) was born in Denmark.  A wealthy Danish patron commissioned the artist to do a series of paintings on the life of Christ.  These were placed in the chapel of the Fredericksburg Castle near Copenhagen as a gift the the Christian king of Denmark.  They are still there to this day. 

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Coffee Memo:  As long as there is coffee in the world, how bad can things be? Cassandra Clare

Killed in Action  by Kathe Kollwitz

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