by Makoto Fujimura
Yes, I had seen reproductions of Leonardo's The Last Supper. But I never had stood under it. So I came to Milan, Italy to stand-under a painting.
"If you want to 'understand' something," said my friend Bruce Herman, "you have to be willing to 'stand under' it." Bruce, an art professor at Gordon College, went on to cite C.S. Lewis' Experiment in Criticism:We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.
Why is it important to experience a work of art firsthand? If we base our conclusions merely on what an 'expert' has said, or on our own limited assumptions, we will never be able to 'surrender' to the work and discover for ourselves what it has to say.
Here's what I discovered standing under The Last Supper: the most important visual catalyst for the painting is not the effeminate John, nor Judas, nor even Jesus himself. The key figure in kick-starting the visual movement of the painting is Philip."
Books and Culture, November/December 2006
(FYI: The new issue is not yet linked.)
If you are interested in reading more about Fujimura, his website can be found here.
The entire article can be found at Mr. Fujimura's blog here.