views, reviews and previews
The Mediterranean Years (1945–1962)
6–24 Britannia Street, London
Until 28 August
IN THE achingly trendy spaces alongside Grays Inn Road there is a gallery which will be forever New York. Its ceilings are high. Its walls are gray (or grey). The girls are very pretty and it’s not obvious which door you go in at.
Here money and bohemianism talk. New Directions readers should visit, especially if they have the money to buy any of the exhibits when they reach New York.
But they should visit anyway because this show, put together by Picasso’s grandson, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, and his biographer, John Richardson, is a fascinating and stimulating display of late works, many not previously seen outside the extended family’s own collections. The hundred or so items are Picasso’s Picassos. They are Mediterranean works, produced in the south, in the old perfume factory at Vallauris, in his great houses of La Californie and Vauvenargues, and their colour and vibrancy are a burst of life after the gray Parisian works of the war years, some of which are currently on display at Tate Liverpool.
The years after the war were a very fruitful time for Picasso. He rubbed shoulders with poets, was fêted at bull fights and surrounded by critics, hangers on, friends, admirers, mistresses and children. All of these appear in the exhibition. He worked in sculpture and ceramics. He used almost every printing technique known to man. He made cut-outs. And he painted.
The show gives good examples of all these different forms and – well, some are better than others. The sculpture ‘Petite fille sautant à la corde’ is wonderful. The girl is airborne above her skipping rope, in a way which is both light and strong. The sculpture works in the round, almost unconsciously. And the in-between age of the girl is caught with her thin legs, clunky shoes and bunched up hair. It is a humorous piece which is so well done you don’t notice how well done it is. Around it are other sculptures and some paintings of children, which do tip over into the mawkish.
Another good sculpture is ‘Le guenon et son petit’, unfortunately behind glass, where the monkey is made up of all sorts of odd bits, which is fun and remarkably monkey-like. That sense of fun can also be seen in a large pastel-coloured oil of a man floundering in the water – this is an exhibition in which visitors should be laughing, though nobody was when I was there. Perhaps they were inhibited by the gallery’s demands on self-regard and financial standing.
No such inhibitions with Picasso. Or inhibitions full-stop by the look of the many paintings of round-eyed, big bosomed women – did the man ever sleep? His generous appreciation of the female form also shows in the cutouts and the ceramics. There are a lot of these. The most interesting are the red and black wares which are a vigorous reworking of the Ancient Greek tradition. In parallel with the National Gallery’s recent exhibition, ‘Picasso: Challenging the Past’, this show brings together a number of Picasso’s works which challenge, not always too successfully, those of Delacroix and Velázquez. But always there is in these works a sense of vigorous conversation with and a real appreciation for his predecessors – Picasso was, after all, a Victorian, supremely self-confident but profoundly traditional.
The late works of Picasso don’t have the searing quality of ‘Guernica’ or the rage and sadness of the soon-to-bediscarded mistresses. The paintings aren’t particularly innovative. They will irritate the prudish and the correct. But there is life and humour and consummate technique and wit. And the prodigious output gives substance to the machismo and the bull-fighting. Like a modern rap singer, Picasso gets away with some very old-fashioned attitudes towards women by sheer force of fame and, in his case, of talent and personality, a personality currently very much in residence in WC1.
The gallery design will be imitated, and should be, because it makes seeing the works easy and a pleasure.
Robert Hugh Benson Once & Future Books 540pp, pbk
0 9729821 1 6, £20.99
IT IS the reign of the first Elizabeth. In Great Keynes Our Lady’s statue was smashed and the vestments burned on the green but the faith they expressed lived on.
As Rector of Horsted Keynes it was inevitable I would read a copy of convert priest Robert Hugh Benson’s novel By What Authority? about the English Reformation. The timing in the end was salutary for me in the run up to July 2010 General Synod. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – in this case problems about authority in the English church. Fr Benson’s novel about the courageous continuity of Christian faith in the first Elizabethan era paints a heartening picture for those of us struggling for continuity in the second Elizabethan era.
Great Keynes is a lightly disguised Horsted Keynes. The story, penned by nineteenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury Edward Benson’s convert son, is of the Roman Catholic conversion and martyrdom of a Tudor Archbishop’s chaplain with roots in mythical Great Keynes. The author’s preface is signed ‘Tremans, Horsted Keynes, October 27, 1904’. His mother, Edward Benson’s widow, is commemorated in the porch of my own church of St Giles, Horsted Keynes.
With the Church of England in turmoil over legislation for women bishops and the ripple effect of international fall-out over homosexual unions, what better escape for vacation reading than a novel that turns the clock back to a similar turmoil over authority over 400 years ago, especially when the book is based in one’s own Sussex village?
Hugh Benson wrote at the apex of the Oxford Movement that attempted recovery of the catholic heritage of the Church of England. Like John Henry Newman Fr Benson became a celebrity convert from Anglicanism, one whose investigation of Anglican credentials led him to what he saw to be a sounder authority. Fr Benson was feted in England and America and that fame lies behind this American reprint of his novel.
The hero, Anthony Norris, and his sister Isabel make separate pilgrimages from Puritan to Papal allegiance over the course of the story. The decisive rejection of the Pope as head of the English Church is followed by the stripping of churches and a pyre of vestments and statues in Great Keynes. The plight of faithful Christians is one of divided loyalty between age-old tested devotion and innovation alleged to be in the name of the Gospel.
By What Authority? portrays people of integrity across the divide, the best of whom wrestle to balance the claims of love and truth. The worst exploit the divide with a cynical eye to worldly profit. Fr Benson provides an inspirational portrait of Edmund Campion, the scholar Jesuit known to Queen Elizabeth who is racked at Tyburn. Puritan sympathizer Archbishop Grindal is one of a few Protestants who shine out in the book. Anthony Norris moves from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s court to courting recusants such as Campion and engaging with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola which turn him Christward and Romeward.
The tragedy of Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth’s attempted via media and the Spanish Armada are covered, woven into the faith journeys of the principal characters. Is it the case though, as the editor’s preface claims, that ‘Benson depicts the rise and entrenchment of the nation state and the replacement of a supernatural Lord and Savior (sic) with an earthly Virgin Queen’?
No punches pulled in such a sentiment but it is not a fair summary of the book itself, which is more nuanced in its criticism of the English Church’s pilgrimage through reformation. The most haunting aspect of the book for the troubled Anglo-Catholic is its title, By What Authority? This is the question heavily pursuing the Church of England’s children today as they face the ‘reimaging’ of their church for the modern era. That reimaging seems to be facilitated by the loss of sacred authority consequent upon the Reformation, as Hugh Benson would no doubt concur.
The implementing of women’s ordination and same-sex union blessing seems as worldly a reimaging of the church as the clearing out of vestments and statues in the past. Fr Benson lived to see the faith of the church through the ages honoured once again in the Church of England but not sufficiently to retain his own allegiance. A century on from his day ‘the ancient church of this land catholic and reformed’ is experiencing extraordinary changes of questionable authority. Like the hero of Benson’s novel we have to move through these keeping integrity and sacrificing ourselves as best we can before sacrificing Christian principle.
The Revd Dr John Twisleton
is Rector of Horsted Keynes,
West Sussex in Chichester Diocese
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN
A Very English Saint
FOLLOWING STEPby step where the kindly light led, Newman was taken eventually to where he had always longed to be. From an evangelical Anglicanism under an early tutor (whom he always remembered with affection and gratitude); through an unspecific reluctance to say anything intemperate against the Roman Church; by an argumentative temperament and a breadth and penetration of intellect, from one wing of the Church of England to its opposite extreme within the same church; and finally to an inability to deny that the Roman Catholic Church was the one true church, with an apostolicity that the Church of England – for all its piety, beauty and virtue – lacked. From that point there was no alternative to conversion.
This conversion led to suspicion on the part of those he had left behind, and on the part of many of his new co-religionists. A life of controversy, patiently argued and forbearingly endured, with no loss of love for the church he had left or for old friends within it, was a right though not an inevitable outcome. It is this, I think, that has led the Church of Rome to initiate the procedures towards canonization. That is to say he is regarded by his advocates as a heroic Christian Confessor.
There is nothing else that I, as an Anglican, can say about sainthood or the various other matters, such as the Marian doctrines, the Immaculate Conception, Transubstantiation or Papal Infallibility. Some of these are matters of definition, and I am not sure how much difficulty would be removed by close attention to or further refinement of the definitions.
On the other hand the claim, or charge, that the Church of England is Erastian I find to be more difficult to refute with the passage of time. The Elizabethan Settlement with the Articles, Newman believed, was an ambiguous attempt to persuade Catholics to settle into conformity or at least acceptance; and at one time (before his conversion) he preached upon the Thirty-Nine Articles in such a way as to show how compatible they were with Roman teaching – to a general consternation.
For myself I am struck by Tony Blair’s intimation, early in his long term of office, that the Church of England would not be disestablished provided it modernized itself. One might wonder quite what he meant by ‘modernize’, but whatever he meant it was as if he had said that the Church of England would be disestablished if it did not modernize.
That sort of remark sounds more like a threat than a promise and suggests rather strongly that he saw the Church of England as subject to control by the State. It would be acutely difficult to decide which matters were spiritual, not subject to State interference, and which were not. I wonder what Newman would have said about it. In any case the Anglican churches seem only too ready to modernize and, indeed, to have got ahead of requirements made upon them.
Another matter about which it would be interesting to have Newman’s judgement is the direction education has taken in recent times. He is correctly seen here as having exerted a considerable influence even in our own time, but if that is true many people would ask whether the influence has produced wholly the results he envisaged.
I doubt whether he would be too pleased about the handling of religion or morality in many schools or the prevalence in universities of vocational and non-academic courses.
The nineteenth century was, to a large extent, a utilitarian age, as Trollope pointed out and other novelists showed. I wonder whether Newman both resisted and at the same time succumbed to its pervasive influence. He said that a university should not offer
‘utilitarian subjects’, but then within the same book (The Idea of a University) he suggested that his non-utilitarian education could bring forth material benefits. This, it has been suggested elsewhere, has borne fruit in today’s insistent demand for investment
in education with results that must have seemed to Newman, if he were with us now, unacceptable.
As for the clergy of both churches, with their jealousy and scheming and scant regard for the laity, things were as little satisfactory in Newman’s time as in our own. Perhaps that is why he chose as his epitaph, In necessaries unitas, in dubies libertas, in omnibus charitas.
John Henry Newman is not (perhaps I should say, ‘thankfully’) the intrusive sort of biography all too common today, and yet its method of careful quotation of relevant material succeeds in giving not just a voluminous amount of essential data but also a sense of a real and important life, which arouses great sympathetic interest for the intelligent general reader.
HEAVEN & EARTH IN LITTLE SPACE
The Re-enchantment of Liturgy
Andrew BurnhamCanterbury, 228 pp, pbk
978 1 84825 005 5, £16.99
THE QUALITYof Christian liturgy impacts mission. Where the spirit of celebration is evident people get drawn in and engage with the Christian community. Yet there is a movement away from liturgy that sees its formality as deadening and its ethos élite.
Bishop Andrew Burnham writes of re-enchanting liturgy as a pivotal issue in the life of the western Church. His book connects with Pope Benedict’s concern for a more profound sense of the divine in Catholic liturgy to correct the excesses of Vatican II.
The book’s title affirms liturgy as the meeting place of heaven and earth. Music and drama should play their part in opening up a vision that is beyond this world. Although the book laments the consequences of liturgical change, it has few practical suggestions for improved parish liturgy. It is nevertheless a good historical chronicle of the Anglican and Roman Catholic liturgical scene up to today.
Those who value the Catholic heritage of Anglicanism will be challenged by Andrew Burnham’s pessimism about that legacy. Are Anglicans both catholic and reformed or has the reformed tendency triumphed? What is Anglican patrimony? The chapter on fasts and feasts is a reminder of how liturgy rides on an ascetical element now somewhat lacking in churches that have stopped fasting. The thesis of re-enchantment seems to presume liturgy can be made enchanting by the issue of texts hierarchically rather than by congregational revitalization.
The question addressed in this book is so important it needs a wider consideration of the streams of renewal that serve liturgical enrichment. A companion volume on preaching and liturgical re-enchantment would be welcome.
THE PATH TO ROME
Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church
978 0 85244 729 1, £12.99
‘LARGELY IGNOREDby the mainstream media [but hardly unnoticed by this publication] the impressive flow of conversions to the Catholic Church which took place in the last two decades of the twentieth century has shown no sign of abating in this new millennium.’ This is an expanded tenth anniversary edition of a book which has helped a large number of people ‘towards the fullness of Catholic Faith’.
The book is a collection of short biographical essays by a wide range of people, beginning with women clergy, and moving through Evangelicals, a New -Ager, Anglo-Catholics, a couple of CofE bishops and two parliamentarians, who have converted and been received into the Roman Catholic Church.
Some are simple, straightforward accounts. Neville Kyrke-Smith I vaguely remember as a fellow-student, and then hearing that he had poped a few years later. His account of visits to Russia when a young curate and his encounters with clergy being persecuted and even martyred for their faith under the former regimes is unexpected and powerful; if this led him to a greater commitment in his own faith, who are we to argue? It is simple, honest spiritual autobiography.
Others are less persuasive. The American Episcopalian woman priest rehearses arguments that are so familiar (to us) that it is hard to be interested in her moral and intellectual progress: that is hardly her fault, and her piece might well be of greater interest to others.
One of the least convincing is the editor’s own story: perhaps he is too much of a journalist, for he has dressed his tale with too much cleverness as well as his slightly pretentious self-designation as a former ‘mainstream Anglican’. It was the comment of a ‘plump’ rural dean, ‘There is no such thing as an objective theology’ that was the first crack in the wall of his former certainties. Maybe that is true, but if he had been asked to write a fictional propaganda account, would he have needed to change a word? I think not.
The late Graham Leonard’s account is interesting on a wider ecclesiological level. ‘All I had asked for in my petition to the Pope was that I should not have to deny my former ministry and that I did not have to do. Included in the rite was a statement in the words of Vatican II recognizing my ministry as an Anglican and a prayer that it would be fulfilled in the Catholic priesthood. In my case, I was ordained conditionally because I had been ordained as an Anglican by a bishop who was in the Old Catholic succession, and on the Pope’s personal instruction I was ordained straight to the priesthood without having first to be ordained deacon. But the statement and prayer are included in the ordination of all former Anglicans.’
MP Ann Widdecombe’s conversion was one of the least gracious of the many that occurred after the 1992 vote. Is there any sign of a more irenic spirit all these years later? Perhaps, but not much. ‘So I left the Church of England in a blaze of publicity uttering not very kindly sentiments towards George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury.’ She speaks of the ‘media circus’ and finds some reasons for that response, but not within herself, which makes her article of interest but not a piece of spiritual autobiography.
This book, it seems, was not compiled for those considering the journey to Rome, but to provide solace and encouragement to those already there.
LIFT HIGH THE CROSS
Anglo-Catholics and the Congress Movement
978 1 853118 17 3, £25
AS Ibegan life as a postgraduate in September 1967, I moved into a South Kensington vicarage behind a big brick Butterfield church.
I already knew that few other churches had large gilt Martin Travers retables in the Central American baroque style, but I had yet to discover that this church had complete High Mass sets of vestments that included Refreshment Sunday pink (Western, of course), and that Frank Weston had prepared his address to the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress in St Augustine’s vicarage. I had stumbled upon the Anglo-Catholic history that is the subject of this book.
It must first be said that this looks to be a detailed and accurate history of the Anglo-Catholic Congress Movement. The author does not assume that readers are versed in the Movement and includes chapters giving the background, political and social, to England in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Church of England at that time. He explains the origin of the Congress Movement, and then describes the Congresses and Priests’ Conventions in chronological order, interspersing these with topics like the Church Assembly, Catholic societies, Reservation and the Birmingham ‘rebels’, Summer Schools and conversions to Rome.
Gunstone is sympathetic and fair to his subject, so the book is easy to read. We are reminded of half-forgotten heroes, Lord Halifax, Bishop Frank Weston, Fr Basil Jellicoe and Fr David Rosenthal (‘Rosie’). Jellicoe and Rosenthal lived prophetic lives in the cause of incarnational and sacramental religion, and because of their dedication, both died young.
A great Movement it was, huge numbers attended the Congresses in a filled Albert Hall, but those were just one visible fruit of Catholicism. It was lived out on a day-by-day basis in parishes up and down the country, in a way far from monochrome. Rather than the simple Western Rite vs. Sarum classification of Anglo-Catholics, Gunstone recognises a whole spectrum of practice, and accordingly comes up with a seven-point ROYGBIV scale. Are you Red (Roman in all but orders, Baroque Western celibate), Green (Alcuin Club with two candles, Interim rite) or Violet (8 am BCP and 11 am Matins, established church but see yourself as a bit high)?
Bishop Kirk of Oxford proclaimed the five truths of the Movement – sacramental character, social mission, personal holiness, pastoral authority and the spiritual independence of the Church. We need reminding of those today, just as we should recall ‘Good Manners’, how to behave in and out of church. While it was in full swing, the Congress Movement made agendas, and above all had fun. It touched the Church of England but did not convert it.
There are revealing snapshots that still echo in 2010. Thus in 1920 Francis Underhill pointed out that Catholics and Evangelicals were united in their belief in the essentials of the Christian faith, and that the real enemy was atheism. In 1933, Bishop CarpenterGarnier talked about the damage done by party spirit and letters in the church press. That same year, N.P. Williams reminded his listeners that the primitive church used ‘Catholic’ to distinguish orthodox believers from Arians and others who denied the Incarnation. He also foresaw an attack on Christian truths by a God-denying secular and materialistic society, attacking doctrine and morals rather than actually persecuting the Church’s members. Does all this strike a chord?
Fr Mackay’s successful Lent course on the Christian basics filled his church and reminds us that the truths of Christianity need to be retaught to each generation, for in the words attributed to Chesterton, himself an Anglo-Catholic who poped: ‘When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing - they believe in anything.’
At its best, the Catholic Religion is a perfect integration of the incarnational, mystical and sacramental. Nothing less will transform lives.
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