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Isenheim Altarpiece

Fulfilling a 25-year dream, I drove with two friends from Germany to Colmar, France to visit the Unterlinden Museum and see Matthias Grünewald’s compelling altarpiece from the early 1500s. My undergraduate painting professor Jay Olson first described this painting to me as the most genuine statement of faith an artist had ever painted. It was always his dream to one day see it. John Berger writes in Keeping a Rendezvous about the consequential brutality of this altarpiece as opposed to most Renaissance art which idealizes the body and reduces violence to a romantic gesture like in a John Wayne or Gary Cooper western movie. With grace and honesty, this work does speak to grevious suffering, redemption and the human condition. The skin of Christ and the gestural emotion conveyed in his hands and feet is so exceptional and direct, that you recognize this is where the immanent does meet the transcendent in paint on canvas.