The best way for Christians to change culture is to make culture. Andy Crouch

Egbert Modderman: Caring for the Sick

ArtWay Visual Meditation January 6, 2019

Egbert Modderman: Caring for the Sick

Friendship without Illusions

by Wim Eikelboom

A friend in need is a friend indeed. This well-known saying is portrayed in this painting. Four young men are carrying their paralysed friend to someone who can heal him. The paralysed man has probably been living with the results of polio since childhood. 

The painting immediately catches our attention. It is a penetrating, intense image: four men of about the same age who are carrying a defenseless, naked person, covered by a cloth. Various emotions can be discerned on the faces of the four men. They all look a little bit dejected. One is thinking: what on earth are we doing here? We can also perceive a hopeful resolve. Resolute faith is visible, but traces of doubt and resignation also lie hidden in the faces of the foremost friends.

The painting has the visual impact of Caravaggio’s work, an artist who inspired a great deal of baroque art and who painted biblical scenes on immensely large canvases. This New-Testament scene (Matthew 9:1-9; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5: 17-26) was chosen and put on canvas by the 28-year-old artist Egbert Modderman from Groningen, The Netherlands. He studied at the Florence Art Academy in Italy. There he learned the artistic techniques that allow him to walk in the footsteps of legendary masters such as Caravaggio. Modderman likewise chooses to make paintings of considerable dimensions, on which he positions true-to-life, life-sized people.

The young master from Groningen is inspired by Bible stories which he brings into the present day. We see people of today in snapshots of ancient biblical history. There is something else that is special in Modderman: he chooses scenes and moments that have seldom or never been immortalized in the course of the history of art. In this case, the moment when the friends let down their mate through a hole in the roof is more often portrayed. The scene chosen here is perhaps filled with more suspense, because the four friends are at the beginning of their act of faith. They have heard about a rabbi with healing powers and want to get near him with their paralysed friend, whatever the cost.

This painting about friendship without illusions is part of a series about works of mercy, commissioned by the Martini Church in Groningen. In a certain sense it functions as a moral and spiritual mirror: what would I do if my friend was lying on his bed with an incurable disease? Would I have enough faith to take unusual steps?


Egbert Modderman: Caring for the Sick, 2018, 300 x 140 cm, oil on canvas.

Egbert Modderman (1989 Groningen) studied at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, NL and took a course of painting lessons at the Classical Academy in Groningen and in 2015 at the Florence Academy of Art. His debut was in 2017 with an exhibition in the Martini Church in Groningen with the title ‘The Beauty of Religion.’ About his work he says: “I try to show human stories from the Bible and the Christian tradition in a universal, dramatic style with timeless human emotions.” 

Wim Eikelboom is the chairman of the board of ArtWay, journalist, and art lover. In daily life he works as a broadcasting co-ordinator with NPO Radio 1 (a part of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting system).



1. ARTWAY – New in the Christian Calendar section: A remarkable Dutch tile for the 8th Sunday after Epiphany. “Dutch tiles could be found in abundance in Dutch houses from the 17th century onwards. They suggest a contradiction of the widespread idea that Holland’s Reformed citizens did not care much for art and the depiction of biblical stories. This tile from Rotterdam portrays Jesus' parable about the speck and the log – very literally, very graphically and a bit primitively. Read more

2. ART MATTERS SYMPOSIUM IN EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – 16 February, 10 – 21.30 h, Leith School of Art, 25 North Junction Street, Edinburgh: Art Matters: A Day Symposium on Art, Faith and Social Responsibility. Morphē Arts presents the annual Scottish Interface event. A day symposium on art, faith and social responsibility. We will discuss the importance of the creative arts in the formation and care of culture from the perspective of Christian belief. The morning will be a series of short talks from artists, musicians, writers, designers, theologians and art philosophers on why the arts matter at this time. An afternoon symposium will lead into a drawing workshop (tbc) followed by an evening music event.

3. ART IN ORVIETO, ITALY - 16 July – 6 August, Orvieto: ART in Orvieto. This is an advanced summer studies program in art, religion, and theology located in Orvieto, Italy, a magnificent hill town 90 minutes north of Rome. The program offers an ecumenical exploration of Christian understandings of the arts. It provides a three-week residency designed for artists, graduate students in relevant fields, and other adult learners interested in engaging the intersection of art, religion and theology. ART IN ORVIETO is a program of the Institute for Christian Studies, an affiliate of the Toronto School of Theology, Toronto, Ontario. THE ART IN ORVIETO PROGRAM occupies superbly renovated facilities in the medieval monastery of the Servite Order in Orvieto. The facilities are leased by Gordon College of Wenham, Massachusetts, and its affiliate Studio for Art, Faith, and History. The Institute for Christian Studies and the Studio for Art, Faith, and History share the same mission: to engage in integrating thought and practice in the arts with theology and the life of faith. There are two components: a graduate seminar for all participants entitled Art, Religion, and Theology: Theologies of Art in the Christian Tradition and an artists’ workshop for practicing artists.  

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