Educating the Rich on the Globe | Art for Proper 20

“If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?” Luke 16:11-12

Educating the Rich on the Globe
Tom Otterness
 1952-
Educating the Rich on the Globe
1997
Sculpture,freestanding Metal
New YorkClick image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Educating the Rich on the Globe, bronze, 1997, Tom Otterness, 1952-

The excitement of finding, seeing, or experiencing something new or different seems to be built into our makeup as humans. We like to see technological advancements (new cars, airplanes, computers, etc.) and to talk about them as well. The fashion industry is known for its annual changes of colors, materials, and styles. Almost all other commercial areas of our lives also are subject to change; if nothing else, slogans and packaging are changed. In the arts, the avant-garde continues to push boundaries and as in almost every aspect of our culture, the pace of change has accelerated continuously within the past one hundred fifty years.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pop Art with its familiar images from our commercial world (e.g. soup cans, comic strips, and celebrities) re-engaged the public. Pop imagery arrived at a time when large sums of money were being invested in art; individuals with immense wealth, large corporations, and city governments were among the collectors. At a time when the definition of art expanded, and money was available, collectors seemed to be eager to identify with works that were new, thought to be clever, and on the leading edge. City councils found that placement of art on sidewalks, in medians, or in parks promoted a positive image and before long, the imagery of pop culture spilled over into commissions for “Art in Public Places.” Serious art and war memorials were for Washington, DC. Other cities were likely to select work that did not require an emotional involvement or a mental effort from people in passing cars or pedestrians. Humor rather than solemnity tended to be preferred and images were likely to be entertaining and non-controversial. Often this resulted in pseudo-sophisticated works that were hollow in content and only pretended to have deep meaning. Among sculptors who tapped into an opportunity to receive large financial rewards for public sculpture was Tom Otterness.

Otterness’ “Educating the Rich on the Globe” is made in a cartoon balloon-figure Pop Art style. The title would lead one to believe the sculpture deals with the subject of moral responsibility. Instead, it is simply a play on the words of its title – a deliberate misdirection and a strained attempt at humor. At its base, four small people are supporting a globe that is obscured partly by very large pennies. The coins are apparently the artist’s nod to the fictitious surname, “Pennybags.” Uncle Pennybags, the man that is sprawled on his back atop the globe is wearing his usual tuxedo, bow tie and top hat, and will be recognized immediately as the board game figure also known as Mr. Monopoly. He is being straddled by a child that is reading from a very large book. The Globe in the title refers literally to the globe in the sculpture and the Rich is referring to Monopoly’s mascot, “Rich Uncle Pennybags.” In total, “Educating the Rich on the Globe” depicts a child with a book pretending to be Educating a man called Rich who is literally on the Globe. This work begs for a deadpan response.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus (“The 100 Guilder Print”), Art for B Proper 20

Mark 9:33-37
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

 The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus (The 100 Guilder Print)
The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus (The 100 Guilder Print)
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Dutch, Amsterdam, about 1650
1647-49
Etching and drypoint, 1st state, 278 x 388 mm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Commentary by Hovak Najarian
(Previous post September 23, 2012)

In the Hundred Guilder Print, Rembrandt has combined several subjects taken from the nineteenth chapter of Mathew into a composite image. As a result it is known by several titles. Among them are: Little Children Being Brought to Jesus, Christ Healing the Sick, and Christ Preaching. In Rembrandt’s lifetime it was known famously as the “Hundred Guilder Print” and it continues to be known by that title today. As a masterpiece, it was first sold for a hundred guilder; a very high price at the time.

Mathew’s account tells of Jesus departing Galilee and going to Judea where multitudes followed him; many were healed. While he was there, Pharisees came and he answered their questions. When mothers brought their children to him to be blessed, the disciples rebuked them but Jesus said: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” A young rich man asked Jesus what he must do to enter heaven and was told to first give all of his possessions to the poor and then, “follow me.” Jesus noted it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. References to all of these subjects were combined in Rembrandt’s print.

In the center of this etching, Jesus is standing as he speaks to the crowd that surrounds him. At the far upper left a group of Pharisees are debating among themselves and to the right, the old and sick are trying to get closer to Jesus; one of them was brought in on a wheelbarrow. Others are coming in from the right as Peter (behind the pleading woman whose shadow is cast on Jesus’ robe) stretches out his arm to indicate there are too many people in the crowded space already. The rich man has returned to his camel (in the doorway); he is leaving because he cannot give up his possessions. In the central area are a variety of people of humble origins and differing needs. A woman with a child in her arms approaches Jesus (her foot is on the raised area on which Jesus is standing). Another woman (lower left) is holding her child’s hand as he reaches toward Jesus. The child’s dog is nearby. In this etching, Rembrandt demonstrates his remarkable ability to integrate and balance diverse subjects and to unify them in a single composition; the print is a superb example of his genius.

Note

Etching: An etching is made from a copper or zinc plate that has been covered with liquid asphaltum (an acid resistant ground). The artist draws an image on the plate with a scriber but scratches only through the asphaltum surface to expose the plate. The prepared plate is placed in an acid solution that eats into it and creates fine shallow grooves in the areas that have been exposed. The asphaltum then is removed, ink is pressed into the grooves, and the surface of the plate is wiped clean. A slightly moistened paper is placed over it and it is run through a press. The pressure pushes the paper against the ink and, as the paper is pulled away from the plate, it lifts the ink out of the grooves and reveals the image (in reverse).

Intaglio (Italian, from intagliare – to engrave): This term is used for a family of prints in which the ink is held in grooves beneath the surface of a plate. In an etching, acid is used to create the grooves. When making an engraving, the artist removes the metal directly with a burin. When making a drypoint, the grooves are created by scratching with pressure into the surface of a plate (this makes a groove but leaves a burr). Etchings, engravings, and drypoints are all intaglios. Although the Hundred Guilder Print is primarily an etching, it was easier for Rembrandt to use drypoint and engraving techniques when touching up and refining some areas of the plate after it was etched.

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© 2012 Hovak Najarian

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard | Art for A Proper 20

Matthew 20:1
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
1769
Oil on canvas, 51 x 74 cm
Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna
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Click for artist bio.