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Art and the Church -> Materials for Use in Churches

Year C, Advent 1 - Howard Finster

Year C, Advent I, Revised Common Lectionary

Howard Finster: The Lord is Coming Back

This painting, entitled The Lord is Coming Back, was made by Howard Finster (1916-2001), an American outsider artist who became famous and popular within the art world. He was a revivalist Baptist minister, without much education, who felt called by God at age sixty to be an artist.

Finster is known for his primitive, childlike style and for the multitude of texts in his works, sometimes Bible texts, sometimes his own texts. We see here 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, written and pictured: “The dead in Christ shall rise first. We that remain shall be caught up together in the clouds with them and so shall we be with (him).”

On the cross on the left, which seems to represent a cemetery, there is the text from verse 15, “The King is coming back,” which we also encounter in Luke 21. We see a great swarm of dead people meeting the King in the clouds. Those who are still alive are watching joyfully. “Lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” 

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

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Howard Finster: The Lord is Coming Back, mixed media on wood panel, 28 x 35 cm.

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Year C, Advent I, Revised Common Lectionary

Scripture readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36.

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Howard Finster was a prolific artist, who splashed paint on whatever he could lay his hands on (gourds, bottles, mirrors, irons, snow shovels, trash cans, even an old Cadillac!) working, mostly, on canvas, panel, or wooden cut-outs. Finster set out to make 5,000 works of art and carefully numbered his creations, including the date and, often, the exact time he finished them. Finster believed he had received a direct call from God to make art. He loved to talk about the moment in his workshop in 1976, when he was touching up a bicycle frame with white paint and saw a face in a smudge on his finger tip. A warm sensation came over him, and he heard a voice telling him to “paint sacred art!” When Finster protested that he had no talent, the voice replied: “How do you know?” He took a dollar from his wallet, taped it to a plywood board, and sketched a portrait of George Washington. There was no stopping him after that. Finster was something of a William Blake. He remembered having his first glimpse of heavenly realms at the age of three and considered himself “a stranger from another world,” dispatched to earth on a special mission. Said Finster: “God sent me here to preach his Word in the Last Days and to be a Man of Visions.” Finster’s art abounds with scenes of the End of Time, the Great Rapture, and heavenly realms with fantastic, multi-tiered mansions, teeming with brightly-colored angelic beings. The Mansion on the Hilltop, Visions of Other Worlds, and The Lord is Coming Back are typical of this genre of visionary, apocalyptic art. Read more