Monday, May 03, 2010

The Sculptural Work of Fr. Felix Granda

The newsletter of Granda Liturgical Arts for May 2010, details some interesting information and images related to the liturgical art work of the founder of that company, Fr. Felix Granda. In particular, I was interested in the quotation by Fr. Demetrio Zurbito, SJ.

Rev. Felix Granda, the priest who founded Talleres de Arte Granda in 1891, was an accomplished artist in many media, including painting, metalworking, ceramics and sculpture. His work as a sculptor earned especially high praise from Rev. Demetrio Zurbitu, SJ, who wrote in 1929:

"Scripture, doctrine, liturgy, tradition and Christian sense are the perennial fonts from which spring his artistic ideas; the arsenal of his decorative themes. An altarpiece designed by Father Granda is not just a set of architectural elements assembled to adorn and dignify a statue; it is not only a matter of decorating the niche or the archway, filling up with columns and garlands the place where the eyes of the faithful converge. No, the decoration of an altar should be something totally distinct from the adornment of a window or a doorway. Hence the great altars built in Talleres de Arte are truly poetic, each developing an entire cycle of liturgical and theological ideas, full of doctrine and religiosity...

"Two particular things have caught my attention in this matter. The first is the frequent use made of evangelical scenes to decorate pieces of metalwork. In enamel or relief; in friezes or medallions; in gold, silver, bronze or ivory, the Gospel goes everywhere; were an album collected of all these scattered scenes it would be a most complete visual commentary on the Gospel. The other thing worthy of consideration is the preference shown for the oldest artistic formulas...

"As the statue is predominant in the temple and its language is clearest to the common soul, the workshop of sculpture is, among all of Talleres de Arte, that which is most immediately subjected to the influence of the director, and that which bears the stamp of his artistic personality most deeply.

"Because his sculpture is purely religious, he desires before all else to flee from excessive realism. He has no interest that his figures give the illusion of life. To the contrary, he is persuaded that a religious statue should primarily have the value of a symbol; its first purpose should be to use its material to suggest spiritual things, to lift souls by means of its beauty. The more idealized and spiritual the statue, the more the souls will be lifted...

"Father Granda desires that the religious sculptor work to bring forth his idea, laboriously scraping the wood or stone, and by gouges extracting the soul that sleeps in the material. The accidental details remain like sketches, simplifying the drapery almost to stylization, because all of the effort has been concentrated on the spiritual expression of the faces. Thus was formed the personal style of his sculpture: noble and sober, full of gravity and purity, without tragic poses or excessive gestures; the most proper to the serene beauty of religious art."

Here are some images from the Belen Church in Havana, Cuba, the altarpiece of which was created by Talleres de Arte Granda in 1915.

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