The Barnes Foundation has one of the best collections of early modern art in the world. It is in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the USA. This is worth the trip to see.


A Recent Visit to the New Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia

One is in awe after visiting the new building and relocation of this exceptional art collection, one of the best amassed by a private US collector, Dr. Albert Barnes, of some of the best paintings of powerhouse artists of the Impressionists and Early Modern era. In the beginning of the last century, Dr. Barnes and a German chemist, Hermann Hille, devised the formula for Argyrol, from which Barnes made a fortune. He bought out his partner in 1907 and became the CEO of the pharmaceutical A.C. Barnes Company (which he would sell very profitably in 1929, before the great crash). Much of his profits he used wisely to gather one of the best private art collections in the world. Recently Sondra and I traveled to Philadelphia mainly to see this collection in its new surroundings (moved to a new…

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Over a year ago this month…..


Paintings Unforgettable

There are some paintings that are unforgettable. And some pass you by, and don’t even register. Sondra and I went to the Prado here in Madrid yesterday and saw both kinds. Usually the art of the West is dramatic, but spiritually elevating in more visceral ways. The technical abilities of the artist are impeccable, and the subject matter depends on the times. We are very good in the West in depicting Tragedy, Suffering, Royalty, Sex, and Delight as though they are all holy charges of the artist’s eye.

This “Descent From the Cross” by Rogier van der Weyden is unbelievably crafted. The Northern Renaissance painters had a propensity for touching detail. 2D is given 3D; 3D is given 4D. Amazing! If you study the geometry of this painting closely, it is remarkable as well.  And the brilliance of the color is superb, almost defying the tragedy of the…

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A New ART LOOK Website

Dear readers and “art lookers.” I am happy to announce a new ART LOOK website will soon be up and running. It will consolidate the various aspects of my art work : Art Look Articles; Painting Galleries; Bio Material; Shopping Cart; and a New Store for purchasing originals, commissions, and giclees of my paintings and drawings.

The Home Page will look something like this:

There will also be a free E-book, “How to Live Better With Art,” given away on the home page for your E-book libraries. In this will be consolidated some of my best articles on Art and some new ones as well.

If you are signed up for receiving these articles on this site now, just visit the site later, which will still be at www.markusray.com , and download the e-book. That will put you on our new mailing list. You will also receive Sondra Ray’s articles on Relationships, Spiritual Matters, and her Lately I’ve Been Thinking posts.

Good things are in store so we can serve you better with our creative work. Www.sondraray.com is also being updated.

I will let you know when the new site is launched. Then you can go over there and get the new E-book and be in the flow of this new energy. THANK YOU for being my “art lover companions.” Keep loving ART with a passion. You can live better with art, as you know.

We have so much to share. Recently Sondra and I saw the show of Cezanne Portraits at the National Gallery. It was deep and moving. Also, we watched great YouTubes on John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins. And—I just painted a new commissioned work of “Jesus Smiling” for Lynn Dulyx in Los Angeles.

I look forward to writing these articles on ART LOOK in the next few weeks, as we head off to Europe for 2.5 months.

I am sure there will be a lot to share from there! We will be staying in London near the Tate Gallery. Hope to visit! Then off to Barcelona, Tenerife, Italy, Denmark, Amsterdam, Poland, Estonia, and ending up in Budapest. A lot to share!



The Art of Living

“The Art of Living is the only real Art.” This was what my spiritual mentor, Tara Singh, said to me nearly 30 years ago. What is this “Art of Living” of which he spoke? It must be more than just being able to paint a likeness of something, or make some dramatic brush strokes on a canvas, or draw a delicate line to describe some intricate facet of real-life observation. They said Raphael could draw a perfect circle free-handed without the need of a compass. Surely this was a skillful quality of his high painterly genius, but hardly well-rounded enough to fulfill the criteria of The Art of Living.

The Art of Living is an all-encompassing statement, just as Life is an all-encompassing and vast word that goes beyond any limited description. Art, as well, is deep and broad. I see an Art as something well done, mastered, given full attention and respect, bringing great JOY to the one who has mastered the form, and great joy to others who are appreciating the form. The artist gives his gifts so that others may benefit. He or she benefits in the practice of the Art, and the people around the artist benefit by being lifted out of the mundane mediocrity, into a realm of excellence that was hitherto not in their awareness.

This is one of Raphael’s “perfect circles,” but there is more to it than just a painterly prowess. The composition is perfectly balanced; the horizon line and the edge of the field shoulder the space; the babies are real babies, not just depictions of “little men;” the colors are exquisite; the gestures of the figures are classic; the whole is greater than its parts; the sacred geometry is a dynamo that works on us, even though we are not consciously aware of what it is. I would say Raphael is employing The Art of Living in this master work.

Mastery must include a deep connection to altered states of consciousness. What else is there that can lift us up and out of the ordinary, into the God-like? Translation of the Madonna and Child into a form of this perfection is rare. That is why it is considered a “master piece.” I went and looked at it for hours in the National Gallery, and never got tired of my gaze. And I think there would be more I could see, given the opening of my eyes even more to The Art of Living.

The Art of Living is hardly a thing man-made. A drop of water on a leaf—would you consider it less beautiful than a Raphael painting? A random occurrence? Or is it? The order of Nature goes beyond our knowing about it. Science has centuries of study under its belt, but the Cosmos is a mighty big place. It defies the known. Nevertheless, here we are in it, an essential part of the unfathomable whole. And the intricacies of the universe on the micro and macro scale are just as boundless and limitless as the vast spaces of the Cosmos extending to its edgeless and infinite outer regions. We are in a huge Cosmic soup. And even then, we are in a tiny minuscule particle of that soup, simultaneously.


These are my wife’s feet on our wedding day. We were in India and this is the custom, to paint the hands and feet of the bride with patterns of henna on special occasions. One could call this painting an art, a living art. One could question why we seek to adorn the body with intricate tattoos and design? Nevertheless, it is part of The Art of Living. Humans have painted their bodies for centuries. Especially women.

What do these two figures have in common to tell us about The Art of Living? The left is Tara Singh on the mountain of Arunachala in Southern India. I took that photo myself. The right is a Quan Yin sculpture whose original is in the Norton Simon Museum in Kansas City. We have a small replica of her in our living room. Both figures are in a state of total relaxation. No pressure. Nothing particular to say or do— absolutely at peace with themselves in the moment. It is almost as if they are defying gravity, floating above time and space and all earthly concerns. While at the same time, they seem totally surrendered to gravity, and totally comfortable on earth in whatever bodily form is required to be here now in the present. These two are practicing The Art of Living to the ninth degree.

The vision one develops when practicing The Art of Living is totally different from normal attention we give to everyday life. It is almost turned totally around, a complete 180º turn, an about-face, a pivot to let go and free oneself from the normal “bla, bla, blas” of the day. A seriousness of Joy that is not attached to sensation or conditions begins to dawn inside. This is not to say the physical senses are not employed. Rather, they are employed in a more sensitive way, taking into account all that is felt, seen, smelled, heard, and tasted together. Observation is total, not partial, and does not divide the world into compartments and fragments of names and categories.  The Art of Living is to see life as a whole.

I painted this Jesus in Glastonbury. It is enhanced by my colorful wife. Relaxed, it is consistent with The Art of Living. This relaxation can be applied everywhere, any time. This is a unique moment in time, but not unlike every other moment in time. The colors come together in this picture. And there is pure JOY. And what greater art is there than the attainment of JOY in all of our earthly affairs? Om Namah Shivay! I am so grateful that Tara Singh awakened me to the only art, The Art of Living, almost 30 years ago. And Sondra Ray rounded out this teaching in my life as my wife, with her insistence for Pure Joy!

This painting is available for purchase. You may like to include it in your own Art of Living! 

THANK YOU for reading, as always.

—Markus Ray—


Art is the Universal Language that Bridges Time and Space

I have been waiting patiently for the opening of a small show of paintings at the National Gallery by an Estonian painter, from Tallinn, MICHEL SITTOW. He lived from 1469 to 1525 and was trained in the Netherlandish Schools, perhaps in the Northern Renaissance lineages of Rogier van der Weyden, and later Hans Memling. One can certainly see similarities in their styles, one of minutely detailed portraits that bring a kind of hyper sensitive life to the faces of the portrayed.

But what interested me was not these historical depictions in the paintings of courtiers from the royal houses of Europe, but rather an energy that came out of TALLINN, ESTONIA, a place I LOVE.  I wanted to see the art of one of her “native sons,” regardless of the fact he may have been formally trained by other masters in the Netherlands. I wanted to see HIM, the MAN, in the works from “back then”, because I LOVE PEOPLE NOW in Estonia. Connecting with HIM was like connecting with THEM, the ones I love NOW, in this time and space. And, I surely did that last Sunday with SONDRA at the National Gallery.

Man in the Spanish Court

I must have strong Northern blood, because I love the cold and I love the detail of the Northern Renaissance painters. This painting held me mesmerized. The feeling of the fur collar; the delicate tiny pleats on the neckline of the white undergarment; the determined, yet kind gaze of a man almost poised in some solemn oath of allegiance, sworn on some holy book upon which the delicate fingers of his left hand rest; and the pointing to his heart by the other hand—all coming together in a most exquisite telling of LIFE. I felt so connected to my friends seeing this painting—to Pille, Rain, Marcus, Angela, Kerttu, Maren, Mari-Liis—through the hands of this Estonian master painter.

ART is the bridge over time and space. BEAUTY travels trough paintings and transcends all limitations. It brings the Universal to this particular moment of observation. It stops the MIND and catapults thought into a profound sense of gratitude.

Catherine of Aragon

This portrait, attributed to being Catherine of Aragon as a young woman, the first Queen of Henry the VIII of England, shows a kind of humble resolve. She was later divorced by Henry, for producing no male heirs, but during her life was loved by the people for her charity and sensitivity to the common folk. One can see the orderliness of her thought. There is a “subtle halo” of a shadowed circle, offset in the background behind her head. One cannot ignore the holy like qualities of such a person. She could be nearly “sainted” by virtue of her humble gaze downward.

In this moment can we see Her? She could be standing by you right now. What would you say to such a person? Would you have anything to say? The simplicity of her beauty is astounding. Could you see the simplicity of your own beauty? Your own resolve? Your own humble joyousness for Life?

Man Holding Red Beads

Now this guy is a little more stern. A serious patrician or scholar in a kind of professorial gaze. Simple clothes. Down to business stare. Those Red Beads, almost like a “string of cherries,” what could they possibly be for? A fur collar, but not as opulent and tactile as the Spanish Courtier’s fur collar. That long and straight nose. A kind of determined frown, but not quite a frown. There is a hint of pervading holiness that MICHEL SITTOW cannot help but infuse in all the characters he paints.

This brings me to this statement about Art being the UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE that Bridges Time and Space. We relate to what we are seeing, and we see what we have the eyes to see. Fortunately this man, MICHEL SITTOW, had the ability to capture in paint what took 500 more years to record with the camera. And we are the beneficiaries of his skill and artistry. The red beads of time, counting off, cannot anticipate this moment of holy encounter. BEHOLD THE MAN. He is here with us now. He is in the core of our hearts with his gaze of serious scrutiny.

SONDRA looking at the Madonna and Child

Many of the SITTOW works are small, as you can see in this photo of Sondra and the Madonna and Child. All the more reason to appreciate the detail, and the intensity of the attention the painter gave to such a tiny corner of his world. But in PRESENCE, this corner has the stature of INFINITY. It grips you, and holds you mesmerized in this moment of artistic transcendence.

Madonna and Child

Offering an orb to her boy, the Mother of us all is giving us the fruit of our child’s perpetual innocence and care—for all time. Yes, one could say the Northern master painters painted the face of Baby Jesus to look like that of a young man instead, but the sentiment is intact. Innocence of the scene prevails 500 years later. I am uplifted by this offering of the orb of Life to the Savior of my Heart’s Desire. And I receive it.

Mary’s gesture of her hand holding the orb is most graceful. It is almost a “pinch” of palpable prolonging of that one moment. “I give you the globe of this universe, my child.” He grabs his toe with the right hand to ground his mission, and stretches to receive his destiny with the left hand of Divine Receptivity. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow in the form of our Divine Mother.

The Ascension of Mary

The last work noted in these “moments outside of time” is the Ascension of Mary. One could say it is “corny” and dated to the iconography of a Medieval naiveness and church propaganda. Angels don’t really exist in this way, and no one floats to “heaven on a cloud.” But, though it may be false to the dimensional science of the age of enlightenment, it is true to the “aspirations of our heart” to transcend the base struggles and pains of an earthly life.

We are “crowned in the glory” of our unlimited Holy Possibilities. Standing on the “crescent moon” of Divine Motherhood, would we not aspire in these times to an ascension of real life sorts? Though it be a “symbol of aspiration,” where would we be without these SYMBOLS? We may not quite “buy into” the winged victory of young girlish angels carrying us off to the coronation of our higher Self, but we could aspire to something more beautiful in LIFE, IN OUR OWN LIFE. And this is the real POINT. The beauty is here and now. MICHEL SITTOW transmits it just as powerfully now as he did back then in 1520 something—into our own bosoms as much as into the bosoms of the lofty members of the Royal European Courts.

ART bridges the gap of Time and Space, and transcends as well the boundaries of royal versus common delineations of class and economic status. The art for the Royalty is now the art for the People. Be it common or not so common, the Beauty is in the eye of the BEHOLDER. And all can nurture that gaze to see with the eyes of the present, outside of “time and space.” We can all receive the glory of the UNIVERSAL ORB of LIFE, of this world, given to us by the Holy Mother of the Universe, here in the Universal and Immortal NOW of Beauty that is all around us. Especially in these works of the Estonian painter, MICHEL SITTOW.

Man in the Spanish Court (closeup)




Matias Grunewald’s “Resurrection of Christ”

from the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, France


I actually travelled to Colmar, France, in 1989, to see this wonderful painting done by Grunewald. It is a rare painting from the Renaissance because most of the church patriarchy supported the “suffering of Christ” as the main iconography to be depicted in the art and in the philosophy put out to the people.  The complete work, of which this is just one panel, is called the Isenheim Altarpiece. Probably one reason the church accepted this highly JOYOUS and celebratory depiction of the Resurrection was that the other panels depict the crucifixion in such gory detail that they were adequately satisfied that the “truth” was being told….you have to “suffer to be holy”…. and don’t you forget it.

Nevertheless, the audacity of Grunewald to paint the Resurrection is unsurpassed, and this is the only painting I know from…

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It’s really about YOU

Are you going to wake up in this life that ALL BEAUTY is at your disposal? In other words, all the magnificent nature that GOD created for you to appreciate—like the Grand Canyon, The Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Islands, the New Zealand mountain ranges, the tranquil fields of Somerset in the English country side, as well as all the art in the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Prado, and the Met, ETC.—are ALL FOR YOU!!!

Art is really about YOU! And any artist worth his or her salt will speak to YOU, or paint for YOU, or play for YOU, or sing for YOU. There is no other audience. YOU ARE IT!

I do not know who you are by name, who are reading this post, but THANK YOU for reading this post. The au currant medium for disseminating art and writing to the public has morphed into the internet of things. So here I am—and here you are. We are poised in a real communication. Potentially this can even be a real communion. What does that mean, you may ask? What is the difference between communication and communion? They both have the same etymological root.

I want to communicate to you. That is good. I choose the medium of paint. OK, that is an accepted way of communication for 25,000 years. Now, what do I want to tell you? If my communication is effective, you GET IT. YOU RECEIVE what I am trying to say. What I say, or paint, “goes into you.” And you receive it. This is why ART is really about YOU. Did you receive anything or not? If you do not receive anything, then either you are not really looking, or the artist is not doing his or her job. But there are a few works of art that have been around for hundreds of years giving to “YOU,” and people have been receiving their gifts and blessings.

These works of ART are most famous because they DO SPEAK TO YOU. Leonardo painted a few of these most famous paintings in the world. Here is one of them:

THE LAST SUPPER by Leonardo DaVinci

SONDRA and I went to see this painting in the flesh when we were in Milan, Italy. It was really a miracle that we could see it, as the “waiting list” was over 2 months to get in. But there was a last minute cancellation and we were fortunate to be able to go into the refectory (dining hall) in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. We had to go though a “de-contamination chamber,” and only about a dozen of us were allowed to enter the space at a time. We could only stay in there about 10 minutes. But we DID GET IN. The painting spoke to US. It was all about US, receiving this gift of Beauty. NOW, this post is about YOU, and you are receiving it.

OK. WHY is this painting so famous? and why does it speak to YOU? It’s really about YOU. What do you see? A central young bearded man with long hair, kind of reaching out in a gesture of humble offering, to a group of rabble rousers—old bearded men engaged in side conversations, hardly noticing the gesture of supplication offered by the man in the middle. The singular perspective places this man’s head in the middle, and directs our eyes to the enlightened “window” of the painting’s main function—to give you pause, to make you notice, to GIVE YOU the feeling that YOU MATTER. YOU ARE NOT ONLY BEING CALLED TO THE CENTRAL VORTEX of this painting, but you are being FED at the table of PURE COMMUNION.

Can you receive it?

The difference between mere “communication” and genuine “communion” is that YOU are essentially included. The man in the middle is feeding YOU. The man in the middle is noticing YOU. The man in the middle is looking toward YOU. Leave aside the other 12 dimwits that are not paying attention. YOU are the one this ART is about. And YOU are the one who receives the communication or not.

If you do actually RECEIVE IT, then communication automatically becomes “COMMUNION.” The pure nature of the man in the middle is transferred into your nature. YOU receive the innocence and grace of his giving gesture. YOU receive it. That means YOU can give it. What you have received you can also give. This is a LAW. Go into this GIFT. Right NOW you can realize everything you have to give in this life. YOU CAN. YOU have these gifts. Giving them increases them. GIVE LOVE and you GET MORE of LOVE. Give hate and you get more hate. You pick. It is all up to YOU.

ART is all about YOU. ART is LOVE, and ART is for YOU. What else is there in life? You merit this Communion.

THANKS for reading.





The Whole Point of the Icon Painting

For the past 10 years I have been painting the Spiritual Masters with whom I am familiar. I am spiritually enriched in this process.  My intention in these paintings is to capture something of the spiritual power these Masters transmit. I would like the paintings to embody the living presence of the Master, and be a catalyst for some deeply spiritual connection experienced by the person looking at the painting. The energy comes from the Master Himself or Herself. In the distant past, these kinds of paintings were called icon paintings, and they were used to edify the congregation of people who were primarily illiterate, and give them a real time contact, directly with the Love being transmitted by the Master.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

I painted this Icon of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in Florida last week. The whole point of the icon painting is to bring into physical actuality that which is often hovering in the ethers of myth and belief. Who would dare to say Jesus and Mary looked like this? It does not matter that they may have looked totally different than a painting of them, but the fact of pure intention to depict them through the painting gives a transmissive quality to this kind of art. It is not just a “picture of ” Jesus and Mary, but it takes on a role of communicating directly Their living presence.

The whole point of the icon painting is to make alive that which was hitherto dormant or dead. It starts out with nothing, and ends up with something. A blank canvas is very daunting. I face it over and over again, and usually surprise myself what comes out in the end. I generally have no pre-conceived picture in my mind’s eye of what is coming forth. Rather, it is a simple and practical process of basic actions with simple choices of colors applied to a clear image of the Master. These conditions set the stage for the paintings’ birth into being.


In Las Vegas this weekend I started this painting of Jesus in green and turquoise. It is still in process. The whole point of the green is to cleanse the mind of agitation, and return it to the peace of God. Jesus has the power to do this, and I imbue the painting with the power to do this. At least that is my intention and aspiration. I ask Jesus to give power to my paintings of Him, and infuse them with His living presence.

The best any painter can do is to “shoot for the stars.” in Latin this is called “aspira astra.” I can go for the highest thought and intention, and ask God to do the rest. I put in my skill to the best of my ability, and ask for His grace to make up for the skill I may not possess. The rest is a divine act of trust in which I paint from my heart, and allow the greater meaning and impact of my work to unfold in time.


This painting of the Divine Mother praying is a work that brings me great solace. I was commissioned by Jane Mnoian for this painting, and I was guided to produce this. I seriously painted it from the heart, because I care for Jane and her family so much. I wanted her to receive the REAL THING. Fervently did I pray that my abilities would rise to the occasion to deliver the Divine Mother’s Energy in the best sense. The Chinese aphorism says, “In order to paint the fish, you must first be the fish.” I had to put myself in the vibration of the praying Divine Mother in order to paint Her. In that I succeeded in being in this vibration, the painting can transmit the Master’s holiness to the person looking at the painting. This is the function of any icon painting. This was, and always is my aspiration to make manifest.

For originals and giclees of these paintings, contact me at markus.ray@aol.com

Originals start at $2500 and giclees start at $650

The feeling of the Peace of God is what I have while painting these icons. The feeling of the Peace of God is what I would like you to have in your life by living with these paintings in your home.






Last Wednesday, January 17th, 2018,  Sondra and I attended this exhibition in its last week at the National Gallery of Art: 

Vermeer has always been one of my “art loves,” from a very early age.  Especially his most famous and larger work, “The Artist in His Studio.” This exhibition presented the forte of Vermeer’s vision into the scenes of everyday life in upper middle class Holland of the Seventeenth Century. It also presented works by his contemporaries who were copying his style and subject matter.

There is a reason why Vermeer is most well known for this Genre of Painting, and his contemporaries are not as well-known. It is because his paintings are better, more truthful, more balanced, and yes, more beautiful. When we were walking through the galleries observing his rivals’ works, I found myself focused only on Vermeer’s exquisite views into the intimate scenes of people in their Delft homes. Vermeer created a true slice of Seventeenth Century life in a fully articulated composition, with no extraneous parts, or awkward postures, or people who were merely “painted” but not “seen into.” Vermeer had “seen into” the life and times of his day, and we are the beneficiaries of his view, almost 400 years later. Vermeer’s paintings had the “X factor” that was lacking in all the other paintings in this beautiful exhibition.

I was so unimpressed by the other works, I found myself not even taking pictures of one of them. This was not because they lacked skill in execution, but because they lacked “life.” They were boring, and made by rote, somehow. They lacked a creative authenticity.

All of Vermeer’s works emit an intense life force, as though the figures are being seen in the here and now. As well, the carefully composed spaces add to the dramatic effect of what he wants us to see, and what he does not want us to see. In The Lute Player, the finial on the lower left corner of the hanging map almost serves as a vector that takes our eye immediately to the most luminous aspect of the painting, the Lute Player’s face. She is gazing into the light, into the outdoor scenes of the street, focused intensely on a space “outside the picture.” Yet, she is simultaneously plucking and tuning her instrument —seeing one thing, yet hearing another music at the same time. This sets up a real life tension that grips us and holds us in the picture. We are intrigued to know more. We stay awhile and “gaze” into Seventeenth Century Dutch life.

In this Woman Writing a Letter painting, there is also a drama of light happening that illuminates the subject. We are not so concerned with the murky, shadowy foreground and gradually fading darkness of the upper left corner of the background. The illumination of her pose, in that instant of about to write something, captures us. This woman in her fur-trimmed smock is attentively gazing right at us, as she lifts her head up from her writing desk. She looks directly into our soul, as we do into hers. It is a moment outside of time, and we are taken there. “There” is four hundred years ago, but we are here, and so is she, in this poignant instant of the present.

In the same ermine trimmed smock, our upper class lady is holding her necklace out in a gentile pose, again, gazing out the window at the outdoor scene in an almost anticipatory moment of pause. It is like a gaze into infinity. Here, the most light falls above the chair back on the back wall. A delicate silhouette is traced along the hump of black drapery, the chair back, the highlighted bowl, then up the ermine front trim, culminating with her delicately posed hands. It is a symphony of perfect pictorial elements which grip us in their harmony.

Vermeer is a Master. All his other contemporaries in the exhibition were “wanna be’s.” They were good, but not different and great. What can the difference be for the average viewer 400 years later looking at this work? I have looked at a lot of paintings in the 45 years of my art life. Vermeer’s pictures merit study, and even uplift us into realms of perfection that stick with us. They are timeless. They are slices of perfection that elevate us into our own perfection.

The Geographer uses some of the same motifs as the others: the one source of light from the left window; the intensely illuminated face engaged in a very focused activity; the rectangular corners of hanging pictures and maps on the back wall; the foreground tapestry providing a drapery of dappled light. The dynamic gesture of the human figure is elegant, anatomically true and perfectly balanced. We are transfixed in this harmony of visual nirvana.

This last painting I will discuss is a two figure composition. There is a woman writing her letter, and an attendant standing by, perhaps, for any soon to be given directions from her matron. One is totally absorbed on her task, and the other is in the “Vermeer gaze” out the window. This composition also includes the marble flooring that the others do not include. We are informed one more step into the interior spaces of these upper middle class Dutch homes. This moment in time freezes the duet of contrasting attentions. One woman is almost daydreaming into the scenes outside of the picture, and the other is attentively scribing her thoughts in her letter. It is almost as if the attendant is waiting for the letter from her matron in order to deliver it, but until then she is in “another world.”

The scenes Vermeer paints are harmoniously balanced in a kind of visual Heaven that strikes us in the core of our being. Yes, they depict everyday life, but they take these common actions and elevate them to noble moments of human divinity. We may not know why we have such a positive reaction to these works, but obviously our psyches register the extraordinary nature of these pictures. I cannot tell you one other painting in the exhibition, and there were many, which I remember.  I can note all of the Vermeer’s, which stood out like Jewels in the Crown of pictorial and painterly genius.

THANK YOU for meandering with me in this ART LOOK. I am grateful to have this resource in my own back yard, so to speak, only a few minutes away at the National Gallery. I am grateful for the professional presentation and coordination that this exhibition makes available to the public. We are blessed in these times that the highest art is accessible to anyone who has the eyes to see. We do not have to be in the circles of the extremely wealthy and privileged in order to reap the benefits of a rich and abundant art history. We have these examples of Vermeer as one who paints for us, his viewers, 400 years after the fact.

THANK YOU for reading, as always,






These next six articles on Why Art Counts in Your Life will address some of the basic reasons for art that I have pondered over the years. My view is that Art counts a lot in the enrichment of our lives, and without it we would have a much more empty and barren existence. With it we are uplifted, and in it are the seeds of creativity which touch upon our own potentials to add something meaningful to our time here on earth.

In “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” the poet John Keats describes a Grecian Urn that contains the life blood of its age, seen two thousand years hence. Though in its silence of plastic physical form, still speaking of a time gone by, it remains ever alive in its ability to present the truth of life at the conception of its making:

“When old age shall this generation waste,

                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

         Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”



Therefore, art is the carrier of truth throughout the ages. When we have a true object of art in front of us, we are in the midst of a communicator of an ancient insight long passed, yet still fresh in its transmission to us in our ever present NOW. We are enriched through the virtue of the Art. And this is BEAUTY.

The philosopher and spiritual sage, Krishnamurti, discussed the meaning of immortality. “What is immortal?” he was asked. What has defied death to the degree that immortality is a fact, and not just a wishful whim? “BEAUTY IS IMMORTAL,” he said. And this is also a feeling held deep within every human heart. When we see something beautiful, like the vista overlooking the Grand Canyon, or the overview of a slope of terraced green rice patties on a mountainside in Bali, or a masterpiece painted and hanging in the Louvre, what hits us in the core of our being? It is BEAUTY that flows into us like an ever giving spring, like a drink of cool water to quench the thirst of our yearning for the transcendent Heaven, here on earth.


One of the few completed masterpieces of Leonardo, housed in the National Museum, in Kraków, Poland, is this Lady with an Ermine. She touches something in us that is nearly impossible to take our eyes away from. She touches Beauty of a nature that is universal, and even archetypical. She is obviously dressed in a garb that is unusual for our times, and even with an animal one would hardly ever associate with a normal situation or setting of everyday life. Yet, there is something of timeless beauty in the light, in the shadows, in the delicacy of form, in the accuracy of anatomy and gesture, in the nobility of the face, in the clarity of the silhouette of the hand and wrist, in the juxtaposition of  such a wild creature in the midst of a character of a gentile upper Florentine class.

The facial features of the Lady are gentle but precise and forward looking. She has a gaze that is drilling, penetrating, yet off to the side, so to speak, at something out of the picture. Even more compelling, the Lady invokes a vastness outside the mere rectangle of the painting, and hearkens to the context and culture from which she comes. And this is all still ALIVE NOW, in this very moment. It is a TRUTH that never dies, like the vision of a mountain, or an ocean, or an ancient oak that stands sentinel over the fields and horizons of our highest aspirations. When I observe her in her own element, I can say from my core, “She is beautiful.”


       This Benin ivory mask from the Metropolitan Museum in New York is a miniature sculptural portrait in ivory of the powerful Queen Mother Idia of the 16th century Benin Empire, taking the form of an African traditional mask. The likeness was worn however, not as a mask, but as a pendant by her son Esigie, who owed his kingship as Oba of Benin to the Queen Mother’s military aid. (Wikipedia) 

Though this sculptural portrait has an entirely different social context, there is something as equally captivating and powerful in its articulation and presence as the Lady with an Ermine.  Certainly the craftsmanship is impeccable. Certainly the features of the face are truthful. Certainly the spirited row of human and elephant heads on the top of her head dress perplexes our sense of casual acceptance of the “normal.” What do they mean? Why are they there? What powers do they impart to this Queen? The mystery is ours to ponder, and the gaze of this Royal Woman gives us pause. Her presence is there in this moment, four hundred years later. Her beauty is in our face, here and NOW.

The role of beauty in our lives is inseparable from life itself. If “Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty,” as the poet says, then I would say Life is Truth, and therefore Life is Beauty as well. Beauty is intensely alive, resurrecting us all from the dead.

We strive to make known the immortal, and through beauty we come to know it. Beauty is “outside of time,” though it manifests within the forms and functions of space and time.


I have painted many a Jesus paintings. But this one, Jesus With Gentle Gaze, has something of a peacefulness in His gaze that the others may not possess. Perhaps I was having an exceptionally relaxed day. But someone else noticed it as well, in Denmark, and she purchased this painting from me outright. She was willing to pay 1500 Euros for this piece that emits a stillness. It actually moved her. When I see this gentleness, and paint it, then others can see it and experience it as well. There is a timeless quality to it. It even transcends my own “abilities” and touches on something given to me as an artist. It is a gift from GOD. Just like the Lady With an Ermine and the Queen Mother Idia are gifts from God.

In the event this painting sticks around, and it should, as the materials of modern paint are more inert than those of the old master painters, then Jesus With Gentle Gaze will shed His truth for many years to come, perhaps hundreds of years to come, and therefore give His beauty to life wherever He is, to whomever pays attention to Him. I like that possibility.

The role of Beauty in our life is to wake us up—To bring us more JOY—to refine our existence here on planet earth to be the royal inheritors of a spiritual truth—and the spreaders of a brotherhood and sisterhood of well being. The role of Beauty in our life is to make us better, more truthful individuals.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

John Keats

THANK YOU, as ever, for reading this series of articles.