Friday, January 13, 2012

Wood Carvings by Johannes Kirchmayer

Here are some photos of carvings by the German born American Johannes Kirchmayer. He lived from 1860-1930 and his Wikipedia entry is here. He lived and worked most of his life in the Boston area and his work is in the American gothic churches of New England. There are some who consider the neo-gothic of the 19th and early 20th century to be faux gothic, that is, just a poor pastiche of earlier styles. I am not of this opinion. While the sacred painting of this period is not so good, I think that in the areas of architecture and sculpture particularly we have a case study of how the study of the past has inspired a tradition that characterises its age in its own way. In fact the writings of AW Pugin, the architect who did so much to inspire the whole movement at the beginning of the 19th century, provide a case study in how study the past in order to establish a living tradition. Pugin who converted to Catholicism in his early 2os and this directly affected his approach to architecture. I think of 19th century gothic not as derivative in an inferior way, but rather as a tradition in its own right that should be taken seriously.

The city of Boston has many fine examples of churches in the American gothic style. There are some also who feel that this style is not an authentic New England style, citing the earlier colonial as more genuinely of New England. This I do not agree with this assertion either. In architecture at least, each is a style based upon timeless principles. If anything it is the 19th century gothic that is more clearly a Catholic Christian tradition, owing so much to the work of Pugin. And like all earlier liturgical traditions, it became the standard for the protestant churches too.

These wood carvings are in the protestant Unity Church, Easton, Massachussetts.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: