Art of Advent – It’s all about the men

Our second Art of Advent course looked at paintings of men. Lots of men: Prophets, John the Baptist, wise men, Joseph, and some shepherds. But wait! Perhaps there were shepherdesses too! Here are the paintings we looked at…

John the Baptist in the Wilderness boschjtb

St John the Baptist in the wilderness, Hieronymus Bosch, c1489, Museum of Lazaro Galdiano, Madrid, Spain

John the B da Vinci 1513

St John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci, 1513-16, Musee du Louvre, Paris

Dream of St Joseph Philippe de Champaigne 1642

The Dream of St Joseph, Philippe de Champaigne, 1642, National Gallery London

Dream of St Joseph Georges_de_La_Tour

The Dream of St Joseph, Georges de la Tour, 1630-35, Musee des Beaux-arts, Nantes

Christ in the House of His Parents ('The Carpenter's Shop') 1849-50 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896

Christ in the House of His Parents (‘The Carpenter’s Shop’) 1849-50 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and various subscribers 1921

Journey of the Three Magi to Bethlehem, 1638-1640

Journey of the three Magi to Bethlehem, 1638-40, Leonaert Bramer, New York Historical Society

The Sleep of the Kings, Gislebertus 12th c, Autun, Cath of Saint-Lazare

Gislebertus, 1125-35, Autun Cathedral

Annunciation to shepherds Wtewael

The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Joachim Wtewael, 1606, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Greeting St Joseph and all dads

Today is St Joseph’s day and we prayed for all fathers this morning.

Got me thinking about my own dad. Not a teach-your-child-carpentry kind of dad. Carpentry or DIY was not one of dad’s gifts. But he did teach me how to do the cryptic crossword in the Scotsman and was even known to phone at 7am to ask if I’d finished it and did I know what 3 Down was. He also taught me how to hold my drink, which was terribly important in my hedonistic youth. He taught me the importance of good communication in business and how to mix with people from all sorts of backgrounds. He passed on his ear for music and his wide feet and curly hair.

Now that he has vascular dementia he teaches me patience. He teaches me the Sacrament of the Present Moment. For when I visit now, there is no exuberant conversation from him, no jokes, no plans for the future – just silence. No chats, no questions, no enquiries on how we’re doing, no news from the rest of the family. Of course I can ask those questions but there is really no point for he can’t remember and gets a bit anxious. So it is all a bit one-sided as I tell him what we’ve been up to, give him all our news and then we sit back in companiable silence. We enjoy each other’s presence and enjoy that moment. We have a smoke and we watch whatever is on the loud TV in the smoking lounge. Sometimes I pick up his Scotsman and we have a go at the crossword. Sometimes he even gets the answers to the clues for the cryptic part of his brain still seems to work. But mostly we just sit.

One great thing about growing old is that nothing is going to lead to anything. Everything is of the moment.

Joseph Campbell