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The beauty in seemingly insignificant things is opened for us by the artist’s eye. Abraham Kuyper

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Gutmann, Franz - VM - Dianne B. Collard

Franz Gutmann: Weeping Christ

The Weeping Christ of Münstertal, Black Forest, Germany

By Dianne B. Collard

In a very small village tucked into the western edge of the Black Forest of Germany is a simple stone “fountain” or sculpture that has deeply touched me during my many visits over the years. This piece of art is located in front of the St. Trudpert Monastery built in the 9th century. This former Benedictine monastery now houses the Sisters of St. Joseph in honor of St. Trudpert, a 7th-century Scottish-Irish missionary who was martyred while bringing Christianity to the region’s Germanic tribes.

The statue is a stylistic head of Christ and his open hands. What makes it so unique (and meaningful to me) is that it constantly “weeps”—one “tear” at a time. Each tear falls through Christ’s hands and returns to the earth. Over the many years of viewing this simple work of art, these tears have spoken to me of the tears of our Lord as he wept over Jerusalem; at the grave of his friend Lazarus; and in the Garden of Gethsemane. But I have also been comforted by Christ’s tears in the midst of my own grief. I am also challenged by Christ’s tears for the peoples and cultures of our spiritually dark world.

This weeping Christ has accomplished what so many works of art strive to do—reach the deepest of emotions of the viewer. For me it truly evokes “sensations too subtle for words,” as artist Robert Henri declared. At my last visit to this small, insignificant village I found myself on my knees in front of this statue and crying out to God, “Forgive me, Father, for how seldom I weep with Christ over the needs of the world.” All in response to a simple piece of public art.

The role of art to “express the inexpressible” continues to be crucial in this world of confusion, fear and sorrow as caused by the current pandemic. It is comforting to be reminded that while we may weep, we are not alone. In the design of this statue Christ’s tears trickle down to water the earth, to bring forth the renewal and redemption of nature. It is a beautiful picture of God’s unique ability to bring beauty from brokenness. May the tears of Christ comfort and sustain you today and in days to come.

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Franz GutmannWeeping Christ on the Mount of Olive, 1982, granite.

Franz Gutmann (b. 1928) is a German sculptor. He lives and works at the upper end of the Münstertal in the Black Forest in south of Germany. Franz Gutmann attended the Friedrich-Gymnasium Freiburg and then studied Catholic theology at the University of Freiburg for two semesters in 1950/51, but then began studying at the Freiburg Art Academy with Wilhelm Gerstel after completing his internship with a wood sculptor. After three semesters he moved to the Düsseldorf Art Academy, where he became a master student of Ewald Mataré. Friendships with Joseph Beuys and Erwin Heerich also date from this period. In 1956 a scholarship from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia enabled him to travel through Central Africa for one year. On this trip he also spent five months with Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné. Gutmann works with various materials (stone, wood, metal). His works range from religious art to large public sculptures and fountains to the design of medals and plaques. His sometimes quite monumental works sometimes have a cheerful character, like the large sculpture made of cast concrete, two giants – swallowers and spitters under the Stadtbahn bridge in the Stühlinger Kirchpark in Freiburg im Breisgau. Some of his religious works are provocative, such as the sculpture of the Crucified Christ in the University Church in Freiburg. He says, “I was born in Münstertal, Black Forest, in 1928. My father showed me how to grind an ax. I haven't learned anything more important since then.”

Dr. Dianne B. Collard is a long-term missionary and creative catalyst. She serves as the Europe Director for Artists in Christian Testimony International and the Founder/Director of ArtsCharlotte. She and her husband currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. She is the author of I Choose to Forgive (Expanded Edition). Website: www.montageinternational.org

ArtWay Visual Meditation 7 June 2020