Lindegaard, Henri - VM - William R. Cross
Henri Lindegaard: A Seed in the Earth
by William R. Cross
This is an ink drawing by Henri Lindegaard, a Spanish-born French Reformed pastor, poet and painter. The work is Lindegaard’s effort to portray the power of a single tiny seed. Burying its roots into the ground, in hope and strength the young plant bursts forth, welcoming the life-giving embrace of the sun. It breaks out of its rocky, angular prison as it begins to fulfill its purpose. Can a plant have a purpose? Can any of us? The rhizome, between the roots and the stem, appears to be Lindegaard’s meditative answer to that question. This rhizome is like a fingerprint: evidence of a unique identity. The plant’s identity? Its Maker’s? Both? Lindegaard muses on the sanctity of life itself, a gift to be treasured.
Born in 1925, the son of a Danish father and a Spanish Republican mother, in 1942 Lindegaard and his family made the unlikely trip north to German-occupied France to seek refuge in the Huguenot town of Chambon-sur-Lignon, located in the mountains of the Massif Central in south-central France. Influenced by Cubist painters including his much older friend Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), Lindegaard developed a distinctive style of woodcut-like black-and-white ink drawings, a compilation of which were published in 1993 (three years before his death), with a selection of his biblical interpretations in poetry, as La Bible des Contrastes. In the words of one critic, these images are visual sermons that “preach visually,” incorporating elements which allude, despite their simplicity, to a profound theological meaning.
Lindegaard made the images in preparation of his sermons. He pondered the biblical passages not just through reading and reflection, but especially through drawing. Some drawings are more narrative, others more symbolic, while focusing on a gesture, an object or a situation. Often Lindegaard took the drawings with him to church and preached with and through them. Sometimes he also made the drawings during and as part of his sermons. At first sight these images appear to be much simpler than they actually are. Often they are filled with small details embedding catechetical or pedagogical insights. To become aware of this, one needs to read the biblical text while also looking attentively at the image.
Each of the four drawings shown here is based on John 12:23-26, where Jesus says,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.”
In La Bible des Contrastes the biblical texts and drawings are also accompanied by poems by Henri Lindegaard. These poems, as written commentaries, further elucidate the meaning of the text and the drawings. Jerôme Cottin concludes his informative article about Henri Lindegaard (see http://www.protestantismeetimages.com/Henri-LINDEGAARD-pasteur-et.html) as follows, “The preacher artist made use of a total language, that speaks to the senses without neglecting the intellect, that can speak to simple people as well as to cultivated persons. Without knowing it, he fulfilled one of the wishes of Luther who also wanted to spread the Word to a greater number of people, through the word and through the image.”
For those who read French, here is one of the poems about John 12:23-26:
Henri Lindegaard: A Seed in the Earth, 1993, La Bible des contrastes, méditations par la plume et le trait, Editions Labor et Fides – Genève (edition of 2003: Editions Olivétan; German edition: Biblische Kontraste, Meditationen in Bild und Wort, 1994).
Henri Lindegaard (1925-1996) was both a Reformed pastor and painter in France. Theologically he was influenced by dialectical theology, the Christ-centered theology of Wilhelm Vischer and the early Taizé movement, artistically by the first Cubist painters, particularly by his friend Albert Gleizes (who converted to Catholicism later in life). Lindegaard also made landscapes with oils and watercolours. Though these were quite popular at the time, he is most famous for his semi-abstract, black-and-white ink drawings of biblical scenes. For more of his drawings, see http://www.artbible.net.
William R. Cross writes a weekly column on art and the Gospel for his fellow parishioners at Christ Church, Hamilton, Massachusetts, USA.
ArtWay Visual Meditation August 23, 2015