‘Ecce Homo’: Calvin art gallery explores the faces of Jesus

“Ecce Homo” (1969) by Salvador Dali, Lithograph. (Supplied)

By K.D. Norris



There may be no human faces in art more explored than those of Jesus of Nazareth and the Virgin Mary, and with Jesus there is a certain “historic” image of the man. But in the hands of artists such as Salvador Dali and Otto Dix, the accepted image is altered.


The current show at Calvin College’s Center Art Gallery, located in the Covenant Fine Arts Center, offers both the historic and altered images of the man in “Ecce Homo: Behold the Man”, currently running through March 4.


“Ecce Homo”, along with the companion exhibit “Most Highly Favored: The Life of the Virgin Mary”, are both drawn from the collection of Sandra Bowden, who with husband, Robert Bowden, have established the Sandra Bowden Art Scholarship at Calvin to “encourage Christian artists to prepare to become leaders in the field of art,” accord to the college.


“I feel like a caretaker, so to speak, of each piece in our collection, preserving it for the future,” Sandra Bowden said in supplied material. “The Bowden Collections focuses on religious art for several reasons: first, it is the subject I am most passionately interested in; second, it is a wonderful time to be collecting work with biblical themes because the art market in general is not particularly interested in art with religious content.


“I also feel that religious art needs exposure within the Christian community, and it is my intent to make these pieces available whenever possible for that purpose. I see my collector’s role as a calling — something that is critically important to do at this particular time.”


There are more than 20 works in the exhibit “Ecce Homo” — which is is Latin for “behold the man,” a declaration which refers to the presentation of Christ by the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate, before the Jewish mob as described in the Bible in John 19. Among the artists included are Jacques Callot, George Rouault, Max Beckman, Bruce Herman, and Tyrus Clutter.


But it is the works of Dix and Dali that offer a non-traditional images worthy of fresh artistic consideration.


“Christus” (1957) by Otto Dix, lithograph. (Supplied)

“Christus”, by Dix (1891-1969), is a 1957 work shown in lithograph. According to supplied information by the gallery, Dix was “a German Expressionist artist who was defamed as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, created many works with biblical content, especially later in his life. This head of Christ titled, shows Christ with a crown of thorns and blood dripping down his face helping us consider Jesus’ suffering.”


“Ecce Homo”, by Dali (1904-1989) is a 1969 work shown in lithograph by the Spanish artistic giant. According to supplied information, the work is “one from a suite of 105 lithographs on heavy rag paper that illustrate the Bible. Guiseppe Albartto commissioned this suite in hopes of leading Dali to God and the Catholic Church. His Ecce Homo illustration is rich in content and shows the artist’s range of creativity and spontaneity. Dali employed the use of “bulletism,” a Dalinian invention where an arquebus (a type of antique gun) was loaded with ink-filled capsules and then fired at blank sheets of paper. The resulting patterns and designs were then incorporated into the illustration. We are left to imagine parts of the face of Jesus where the splatters merely suggest a crown of thorns and agonizing wounds.”


For more information visit calvin.edu/centerartgallery