Renoir’s The Large Bathers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and How Fundamentalism Robs From Life

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art a painting by Renoir shows me, yet again, how fundamentalism hurts people. This post shows again how evangelicalism can be reactionary and not capable of appreciating work like this due to their obsession with “purity” and what they would define as pornography. This is a brief post but one that was on my mind while driving back to D.C. from Philadelphia. 

“It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all to prudent.”

Vincent Van Gogh

“The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.”

Oscar Wilde

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:4-5 NIV

A painting in the Philadelphia Art Museum got me thinking, and not in a way that I planed. It amazes me sometimes as to how I go about life and see reminders of issues with evangelical Christianity. This painting in one of the best art museums in the United States. 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s The Large Bathers

Renoir was a French painter who was known for his development on the impressionist styles. His works are known for celebrating beauty and feminine sensuality. In 1884 Renoir began to work on a new painting. What would become known as The Large Bathers was partially inspired by a sculpture done by Francois Girdarden. This painting, of women bathing,  would become Renoir’s pictorial testament. This work of art took three years to complete and Renoir constantly worked on it until he was satisfied with its composition. After he was done it took criticism and he decided not to do another painting of such work. Many consider this to be one of his best. Eventually the Philadelphia Art Museum acquired it in their collection. They preserved it in the 1940’s and spent a year and a half stabilizing Renoir’s work. The Philadelphia Museum of Art proudly hangs it in its Impressionist section. 


How Would Fundamentalists React to this Work by Renoir?

This afternoon was I was walking through the Philadelphia Art Museum this work by Renoir grabbed my attention. One thing I reflected on was how I wished I paid more attention in art class in high school. But the other thing that I was thinking is of what an impressive piece of art this is. The colors come alive, and it stands out in a way that other Renoirs do not. Furthermore as I was admiring the work a thought popped in my mind that made me stop of think of it from another perspective. How would evangelicals would view this work by Renoir? How many would consider this to be pornography? How many would state that this work would be obscene? How many would claim that it is promoting lesbianism and homosexuality? I’m not making this up, those who follow evangelicalism know how it has knee jerk reactions to issues in culture all the time. As I stood before this painting those are some of the thought running through my mind. Many evangelicals would not be able to handle this painting. Isn’t that sad? 


Another Reminder of How Fundamentalism Robs From Life and how Sexuality is Natural

And that leads me to this closing which I know some will not like, but I just have to say some of this. This afternoon I was reminded once again, how evangelicalism can rob people out of the joys in life. How many evangelicals have not experienced the works of Renoir because their fear that they will be “tempted into lust.” How many would call this masterpiece obscene and questionable. How many would lose the entire forest because they are still stuck on the tree? I ma not making this up and trying to be difficult. This is something that needs to be stated. As I have aged my thoughts on topics like this has also changed. Banging my head against the door while dealing with “purity” years ago while learning how many churches have dark scandals and issues of their own would trouble me.  If that doesn’t trouble you then something is not right. Sexuality is natural and normal. Its a part of being human. What a tragedy it would be for some who do not understand what such works are about. Likewise sexuality is also natural and normal and a part of being human. Its troubling as to how many churches in evangelicalism have controlled people ad warped their view of sex through programs, concerns of “lust” and so much more. I looked into that in, ” Does Evangelical Culture Contribute to Pornography? Plus the Torment Accountability has Left in My Life.” Fundamentalism deeply robs and cheapens life. Being stuck in that black and white perspective is toxic, dangerous and sets up people for problems in life.  Sex is natural and normal as long as you are responsible with it. This afternoon I was contemplating on much of all this. Perhaps this is me continuing to wrestle with the baggage from a belief system that has deep issues and can be toxic. Well this brief post is one that has been weighing on me while I was driving. 


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