Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The "no graven image” virus

Venus, by Michael Newberry,
2008, oil on linen, 48 x 48 inches

Guest post by Michael Newberry

Big in the news this week is the draw Mohammad Contest, and I couldn't be more proud of Bosch Fawstin aka Pig Man. He is a hero for risking his life to fight for free speech. The hoopla surrounding the issue is rooted in the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish commandment that "... thou shall not make graven images..." I know everyone has heard about that concept, but I doubt people understand how it is a virus designed to destroy your love, unique individuality, freedom, and the highest calling of art.

One of my goals in reaching for the sublime in art is to show a radical alternative to the repressive controlling doctrine of "no graven images." One of the birth concepts of my Venus was to answer this sacrilegious tripe, not with a painting about how stupid they are but with the positive direction of where humanity should be going.
Religions want to have power over you but it is impossible to have power over anyone that trusts their own passion, uniqueness, and right to be free. So they have systematically undercut you as a youth by getting you to reserve your most serious, highest, most noble and deepest feelings for religious ideals. Making your other personal passions seem insignificant by comparison.

Serious figurative art is the technology of the soul. Religious are afraid of that, because once people profoundly embrace and substitute high art as the sublime, religions have zero hold. Catholicism made a huge and hypocritical mistake when they tried to integrate secular humanism with Christianity in the Renaissance - humanism almost completely toppled it.

Bill O'Reilly and other "but'ers" will never defend freedom as its root because they are stuck in their belief that freedom is of secondary importance. They are compromised by the "no graven image virus."

No enemy is going to kill me because of making Venus, but that is because they don't have the wits to understand that the god-like nude in high art is the ultimate symbol of freedom, individuality, and passion - and disdain for hypocrites and mob mentalities.

Michael NewberryMichael Newberry  is an internationally-recognised artist whose work combines the colour of the Impressionists and the clarity of Rembrandt with the heroism embodied in romantic music.
Visit him regularly at MichaelNewberry.Com.

PS: For a related read, and possibly the best summary of the issues around and arising from the armed attack on the Texas Draw Mohammed event,

Sample quote: Have you noticed how “all the arty types who say we need "artists" with the "courage" to "explore" "transgressive" "ideas" fold like a cheap Bedouin tent when it comes to Islam …”


  1. Well this is most certainly an ahistorical take on visual art in the West. It could well be argued that "Western Art" as we know it is a creation of the Catholic Church, not a flight from it or an attampt as synthesis. Judging from Newberry's online portfolio, which borrows much from 19th century continental atelier approach, and derives much from late Romantic notions , he is himself by extension very much a child of the Counter Reformation and its attempts to resuscitate itself in the late 19th Century, as were, unwittingly, the late Romantics themselves.

    Moreover, whatever, the sources of Western Art, the notion of "humanism", of the individual or the "person" that he would so triumphantly defend, is most clearly a creation of Western Christianity and the Catholic Church--as in fact is Western Civilization itself. "So-called "secular humanism", such as it existed in the Renaissance or later periods, derives from this, and on closer examination often is not all that "secular" at all.This "Christian Humanism" radically predates the so called "Renaissance", and, no, the Church did not try to "integrate" the Church with "secular humanism", nor did such an attempt "topple" the Church. Thus he errs in lumping the grand humanism and the rich creative legacy of Western Christianity with either Islam or the brief and momentary impulses of iconoclasts in the early Reformation. He also is profoundly mistaken about that period moderns have termed "The Renaissance".

    While it is laudable, and in fact courageous, that painters such as Newberry are out there keeping the Atelier traditions alive in these mindless, near barbaric times, It would behoove him to better grasp the inheritance of his civilization. This is the sort of shallow reading of the history, religion and the Western tradition that we expect out of the Left and not those who wish to conserve our civilization.

    Mr Newberry show extend his readings in History, not to mention Theology.

    A good place to improve one's understanding Christian Humanism as it relates to the artistic and spiritual traditions of the West might to watch Kenneth Clark's "Civilization" series, (it is posted to youtube). There are 3 spectacular episodes that deal with The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Counter Reformation. They are well worth watching for though Clark is sympathetic, his take is objective and eschews sentimentality and the usual political agendas.

  2. @Anonymous (why not put a name to your opinion?):


    True, Kenneth Clark has no political agenda, but he certainly had a theological one.

    Clark's position is that when the barbarians took over Europe, civilisation was only preserved in the monasteries and Christian sacred places. But closer inspection reveals that the barbarians who took over Europe for a millennia *were* Christian--and from their monasteries emanated the brain-deadening miasma that for that millennia produced a wasteland of crosses and graves, and art (if can even be called that) that reviles the human body.

    Clark ignores altogether the Greek philosophy of reason and humanism that actually did build civilisation (in that sense civilisation is not predominantly Judaeo-Christian, but *Greek*), and you ignore the effect of rediscovering those Greek ideas (and Greco-Roman sculpture) on the artistic portrayal of the human body.

    Clark's series is very good for the visuals contained therein, but it is really just a Christian version of whig history. I would advise reading more widely.

  3. A beautiful work of art and a beautifully uplifting message. This painting really speaks to me of the beauty and self-sufficiency of the human soul.

  4. So painting a picture, and this is a nice one, is as good as it gets? Does this mean that those without talent to paint this or the enlightenment to appreciate it are completely screwed?



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