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"The Laughing Christ" and My Thoughts on the Painting


When I'm not being a photographer, a dancer, or making jewelry, I write. Specifically art history. I plan on writing about other subjects.

Lo and behold, the reason why this article exists.

"The Laughing Christ" by Bo Bartlett

"The Laughing Christ" by Bo Bartlett

An intro, or how I found the artwork

I first saw the painting while exploring Ben Long's frescoes installed at both Saint Mary's Episcopal Church and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in North Carolina. While I have seen unusual, satirical, and very nontraditional to the point of insulting depictions of Jesus, this one left me captivated. According to this link, Bo Bartlett created this painting after being inspired by a preachers’ near death vision. This vision made him challenge the traditional depictions of Christ. Even with Ben Long's frescoes, stained glass, prints, and other sculptures all around that tiny church, I kept coming back to stare at Bo Bartlett's painting.

At first sight, it threw me the way Salvador Dalí paintings do not. Dalí, for all his visions and ambition, Surreal and profane, he was still traditional in his depiction of Christ. From what I have seen of the Surrealists' religious paintings, you rarely even see the face of Jesus.

There were other artworks depicting Christ in the church, but while they were well executed, they were still traditional. Ben Long’s representations were of Crucified Jesus and Last Supper Jesus. The former dead and his spirit ascending, and the latter with his eyes looking down and awaiting his fate.

Ben Long's Frescoes

Ben Long's Crucifixion

Ben Long's Crucifixion

"The Laughing Christ" itself

Jesus is vulnerable but at the same time he's laughing. The sun behind him sets in the mountainous background but it still provides him a very subtle halo.

He is so carefree.

This painting is given a serious execution but at the same time there is a serene happiness. Something not seen in the stained-glass depictions in the same room that depicts Jesus as welcoming with a tiny smile. Why is Jesus posed the way he is? Is this after he has risen and has conquered death? Or after John the Baptist baptized him? The mountains behind him could be Mount Golgotha. The sun behind him is risen and so has he. Then again, it could not be Mount Golgotha because there are no crosses seen.

While I accept Bartlett’s official statement behind his creation, this is what I interpreted from analysing a painting that has left me forever intrigued.

Bo Bartlett's Official Website

    Bo Bartlett is an American realist with a modernist vision. His paintings are well within the tradition of American realism as defined by artists such as Thomas Eakins and Andrew Wyeth. Like these artists, Bartlett looks at America’s heart—its land a

Update 7-19-18

I decided to delete everything not related to the painting (and the church it is currently installed in) my essay revolves around. That includes my past updates that explained what I was doing. Hopefully, this will mean Hubpages will no longer consider this article "spammy". I also did some rewrites.

I apologize to everyone for not making this up to Hubpages' standards.

I do find this a fascinating experiment beyond my usual reviews of books and museums.

© 2018 Catherine