Rembrandt is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith

Russ Ramsey,  Zondervan, 2022 (210 pp)

The opening chapter of this fine book offers a brief reflection on goodness, truth and beauty with special attention to beauty. These transcendentals as they are known, have recently been getting a lot of attention as we seem to have lost our way regarding all three. Each of the nine chapters that follow focuses on an artist and their work. The author is a gifted story-teller and we learn not only about the works of art but about the life of the artist.

The artist Caravaggio (1571-1610) provokes a discussion on the sacred and profane and the coming together of corruption and grace, Many of his paintings depict biblical stories of transformation while his personal life was deeply conflicted and self indulgent. The discussion of Van Gogh as “the striving artist” is informative and reminds us that this artist sold only one painting in his life time and yet has become one of the worlds most celebrated artists.

The book’s title is inspired by a Rembrandt painting; The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. This painting was one of thirteen works stolen in 1990 from the Isabel Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston. The author tells the sad story of that heist and to date none of the works have been recovered. In the boat there are fourteen men, Jesus and the twelve disciples and Rembrandt has included himself, the one looking out at those who view the painting.

Other artists discussed include: African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner who took up biblical themes and is an artist with great sensitivity to life, 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer known as the painter of light, Edward Hopper whose work is without sentimentality and who captures a stillness unusual among artists, and Lilias Trotter an artist who was profoundly gifted and befriended by art critic John Ruskin yet chose the life of a missionary to Algeria.

This book is an easy and engaging read, of interest to those who have knowledge of art and accessible to those who are just beginning to discover art. Written by a “Pastor” one might hope it would inspire others in church leadership to give more attention to visual art as a valuable resource for the faith journey.