The Transformation of Catholic Religious Art in the Twentieth Century: Father Marie-Alain Couturier and the Church at Assy, France

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9780773449855: The Transformation of Catholic Religious Art in the Twentieth Century: Father Marie-Alain Couturier and the Church at Assy, France

A study of the paradoxically influential, but obscure, Father Marie-Alain Couturier, and his modernist revolution in liturgical art. This work is a study of one of the most influential but least well-known figures in twentieth-century art, Father Marie-Alain Couturier, an artist/priest who fomented nothing less than a Copernican revolution in liturgical art by introducing modern art to the Church and forever changing the face of Catholicism.It is the central thesis of this study that the changes in remarkable transformations in Couturier's aesthetic philosophy and his subsequent use of the abstract forms resulted from his exile years in America (1939-1945), years that proved to be influential in the final formation of his aesthetic theories. Courturier's interactions with artists and intellectuals in New York are traced and shown to have played a major role in the evolution of the priest's thinking.Particular attention is given to the crucifix by Germaine Richier. The Church hierarchy denounced her work as a '...scandalous and anti-Christian thing'. Yet Richier's crucifix was exactly what the worshippers wanted, an image that was relevant to the times because it captured so vividly the pain and fears of the community. Had the Church accepted Richier's work, it could have demonstrated that it understood the human suffering of WWII. Instead, it clung to its traditions and the cold conservatism it had maintained during the war.In conclusion, the controversy at Assy is shown to be a turning point in twentieth-century sacred art. Whereas traditional church art had always reinforced doctrine, modern art encouraged worshipers to find their own interpretations and led them in new and uncertain directions. Richier's image of Christ, while highly spiritual, did not reinforce Church doctrine. Indeed, it was read by many worshipers as a body victimized by the Nazis. Given the Church's acquiescence during the war, Richier's Crucifixion was a double embarrassment to the Church.

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