Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Paintings of Fr. George William Rutler

One of the things about Fr. Adrian Fortescue which I have always found of interest was the breadth of his own interests. Oh indeed, he is particularly known to us today for his ceremonial commentaries (as well as his studies of the various Eastern liturgical rites), but a look into his life demonstrates that he was a man of varied pursuits, including being a talented artist; a kind of "renaissance man" if you will whose pursuits were by no means narrowly confined to the red ink of the Missal.

I was put in mind of this when I discovered that Fr. George Rutler, a priest himself particularly known for his writings and television series on EWTN, was himself a painter. Immediately my thought turned to the fact that it would be wonderful to show some of these works to the NLM readership, just as we did with Fr. Adrian Fortescue.

Fortunately, Fr. Rutler agreed to my requests and was able to have a few of his paintings photographed -- of which I shall show eight today. However, as an added bonus, Fr. Rutler has also included a wonderful preface on "clerical hobbies" written in his always entertaining style. -- SRT

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Prologue: Clerical Hobbies

by Fr. George W. Rutler

Since Shawn Tribe learned that I am an amateur painter and asked to see some pictures, I thought I should say something about hobbies for clergymen. I’d rather call hobbies “intensities” for the sake of a better word, since priests these days have scarce time for pastimes. I prefer “intensities” because doing something for diversion, increases concentration and actually makes one more productive, as with all-important prayer.

For me, there are three basic “intensities.” One is music. I wrote a book on hymns and have published some hymns of my own, but writing a book on a subject does not, alas, make one good at it oneself. I enjoy piano and harpsichord, have had the audacity to play a few times on television, and was remotely involved in designing my parish’s new organ. I am working on some Handel duets for keyboard and violin. Distinguished musicians often give me free lessons, presumably in the hope of making me less unpleasant to listen to.

My second “intensity” is sports. I did write a book about squash racquets, but the rule I mentioned above about writing on a subject obtains. I keep up with boxing, in spite of a torn rotator cuff, for boxing is among the most demanding sports physically and intellectually. I had an African trainer for a while, but he was loathe to punch a priest since there is a superstition against that in his native Ghana, unlike in our own country. I overestimated myself not long ago in an encounter with a man stealing from my church’s Poor Box. When he lunged at me, I let him have it, since I did not have enough time to turn my cheek. But he did not feel himself bound by the Marquis of Queensbury, and he knocked me out for a short period. Running is the cheapest and most immediately rewarding sport, and I try to run about twenty miles a week. From time to time I do races, and in New York when you run through the streets, officials hose you down and strangers donate money to your favorite cause. Sports should be like eating: do it, but don’t pay to watch others do it. All sports should be amateur. A professional sportsman should seem as odd as a professional eater. Also, a clergyman should have time only for real sports. I have known priests who were under the illusion that golf is a sport. Golf is an outdoor form of billiards. It is a pastime like macramé or curling (and I do not know anyone who can explain to me why curling is an Olympic sport).

My third “intensity” is painting. I had the typical teenager’s fascination with Turner, and never lost it. I am not a good draftsman and prefer landscapes and seascapes. My gurus are Constable and the great luminist, William Merritt Chase, and my favorite school is the Barbizon, especially Daubigny, Rousseau, and Richet. There really is no style before the Ash Can school that I have not liked. Of the impressionists, Pissarro beats Monet. My paintings are scattered all over the place, as I have given most of them away or auctioned them for charity. But now, like a loving father who would never think of selling his own children unless they were unsatisfactory, I tend to keep them. No canvass is ever finished. There is a sermon in that.

The Paintings

New Marlborough, Massachusetts

Pissarro's Favorite River, Oise, France

Still Life After I Ate the Pear

Treescape # 1

Treescape # 2

Near My Parents' House, Somers, New York

Quogue, Long Island

Homage to Van Gogh

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