Lord, spit on our eyes that we may see, how to wake up from this tragedy. Bruce Cockburn

Gijs Frieling: Healing of a Blind Man

ArtWay Visual Meditation January 28, 2018

Gijs Frieling: Healing of a Blind Man


by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

“As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” (John 9:1-2). These verses set the tone for the narrative about the healing of a blind man in John 9, a chapter that deals with much more than physical blindness and healing alone. This also applies to the painting.

On the right-hand side of the canvas we see the face and hand of Jesus. He spreads some mud of sand mixed with his own saliva on the eyes of the blind man. The man stretches out his left arm to touch Jesus. Who is this man who suddenly appeared out of nowhere? Excitement takes hold of him, his face reddens. Could it be true that there is hope for his life after all? Jesus tells him to go and wash the dirt off, in this way handing the blind man a ritual act that from now on can function as a reminder for him that he is not too sinful to be permitted to see and live.

In John 9 the Pharisees with their haughty systems of holiness and sinfulness are contrasted with the blind man. The Pharisees think they see but really are blind. They consider themselves to be without sin but are guilty of pride and misuse of power. The blind man does not see but has a razor-sharp eye for his own sinfulness. He knows he needs a saviour. In this chapter he moves from the confession of Jesus as prophet (verse 17) to Jesus as the Son of Man (verses 35-38).

It is striking that Gijs Frieling painted a horizontal stripe in the mud on the right eye of the man. Through this he seems to refer to another image Jesus used when talking about the sinfulness of humankind: that of the log and the speck. He summons us to a confrontation with the log in our eye, so that we may have sufficient understanding of our own sinfulness to help someone else with his speck. No more judgment but compassion.

To the left and right of the head of the ‘blind’ man Frieling has painted leaves and blossoms as symbols for healing and flourishing. Above his head we see a vague crown. These images remind me of Revelation 22:1-5: “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” and “They will reign as kings for ever and ever.” Through his love, which is referred to in the hearts and crosses on the sweater of the man, Jesus had eyes to see this contrite blind man for who he was and could become.


Gijs Frieling: Healing of a Blind Man, 1999.

Gijs Frieling (b. 1966) studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Rijks Academy in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In 1999 he won the Prix de Rome. He has taught at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the Minerva Academy in Groningen. Frieling’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. He has increasingly specialized in murals, big projects in which he covers all the walls of corridors and rooms. He paints religious subjects as well as idealized depictions of the world of nature as metaphors for divine creation. He also finds inspiration in other artists, art-historical themes, religious rituals, philosophy, films and literature. Frieling is a member of the Christian Community, a denomination with an anthroposophic slant that developed out of the Lutheran Church in 1922.

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker is Editor-in-chief of ArtWay.



1. GERMANY - 22 February – 24 February, Symposium Art & Catholicism in the Dutch Republic. On occasion of the major exhibition “Rubens. The Power of Transformation” (8 February – 21 May), the Städel Museum Frankfurt will host an international symposium on the relationship between art and Catholicism in the Dutch Republic/17th century. This subject will be approached broadly under diverse topical and methodological aspects. The focus will lie on church furnishings, paintings, and the religious use of images, yet the conference will also feature contributions with historical and theological perspectives. The spoken languages will be German and English. Organized by the Städel Museum Frankfurt and TU Dortmund University.

2. RESOURCES FOR THE CHRISTIAN CALENDAR – Each week Victoria Emily Jones posts an Artful Devotion on her blog, consisting of an artwork, a piece of music and a poem. This past week the artful devotion was made up of a work by James Ensor, music by Willie Nelson and a poem by George MacDonald for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, cycle B. See

3. USA - 29 July – 5 August, St. John’s College, 1160 Camino De Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Glen Workshop. Organized by Image and situated in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Glen Workshop is equal parts creative workshop, arts festival, and spiritual retreat. The Glen’s arresting natural environment is contrasted by its casual and inviting crowd of artists, writers, musicians, art appreciators, and spiritual wayfarers of all stripes. Read more about the program of workshops and seminars, scholarships etc:

4. ARTWAY’S SECTION FRANCAISE – Nouveau: Arnulf Rainer: Moïse devant le buisson ardent par Jérôme Cottin,

5. DEUTSCHE WEBSITE – Die Druckgrafiken-Sammlung des Melanchthonhauses ist ab jetzt auf der Internetseite des Melanchthonhauses zu finden. Kunsthistoriker und Wissenschaftler, Museumsmitarbeiter und alle, die sich beruflich oder privat für Druckgrafiken interessieren, können sich nun per Klick die Sammlung ansehen. Das Melanchthonhaus Bretten bewahrt wertvolle Sammlungen mit einzigartigen Schätzen zum Thema „Reformation”. Eine davon ist die inhaltlich wie umfänglich sehr beeindruckende Druckgrafiken-Sammlung. Die Geschichte der Sammlung beginnt im Jahr 1903 und geht zurück auf die Sammelleidenschaft des Begründers des Melanchthonhauses, den Berliner Kirchenhistoriker Professor Nikolaus Müller (1857-1912). Er hat eine Sammlung von Druckgrafiken des 15. bis 19. Jahrhunderts angelegt, die seitdem ständig erweitert wurde. Mehr Informationen; Digitaler Katalog der Sammlung.

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

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