Jonathan's Jottings

Looking behind the image

      What does a face tell us about a person?  During the last couple of weeks, I have been researching online the portraits painted by Dame Laura Knight. During her lifetime (1877-1970) she was one of the most popular and successful painters in Britain. Her achievements were recognised in 1929 when she was created a Dame and in 1936 when she became the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy of Arts since its foundation in 1768.

      As I looked at her paintings, I reflected on how each of the portraits expressed a vivid sense of the personality of the sitter. Kathleen Manners, 9th Duchess of Rutland was painted by Laura Knight in 1934. The portrait captures her fragile beauty but also a sadness in her eyes. The role of the wife of a Duke was not an easy one and the painter seems to have a deep understanding of her sitter’s life. This was no doubt helped by the five weeks she spent at Haddon Hall, the family seat in Derbyshire, working on the portrait.

     Laura Knight also painted many portraits of Gypsies, at a time when they were very often ostracised by “polite” society. Her paintings capture their spirit and vibrant personalities.

     I think that one of Jesus greatest gifts was to be able to see beneath the image that a person presented and understand their deepest needs and longings. Think of his meeting with the woman at the well. If he had simply seen her as she was perceived by those in the community he would have not even spoken to her. Jesus saw much deeper and understood her need to discover the living water of faith.

     I wonder how good we are at looking beneath a person’s image. Whether that is someone we see in the village or one of our politicians who we will never meet. The spiritual gift of perception enables us to see a person as Jesus sees them. To lovingly take time to try and understand them. Maybe to see the sadness in their eyes and enable that sadness to be expressed.

      I believe that, as Christians, we need the gifts of a portrait painter and the God-given gift of showing His generous and accepting love to all those we meet. 

Love in Action
 

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