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Nativity polyptych

Nativity polyptych
Francis Hoyland (1930- )



Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.16

Commentary by Francis Hoyland on Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art Nos. 16, 17 and 18

I do not think that I am mature enough, or sufficiently detached to give a commentary on my own paintings but I can tell you a few things about them.

Every scene was more or less wrung out of me by experience. It was as if the subject matter imposed itself on me. My wife, my father, my mother, my sister, my friends and children all come into these little paintings, as did my spiritual life and my horror of war.

The format stems from my time as a student in Italy where I was impressed by the narrative power of Italian painting, especially when these narratives were deployed as cycles of frescoes or as sequences of a story in a predella.

Indeed, the Holy Communion predella was once the predella of a large crucifixion which, in a panic induced by the presence of my dealer, I spoilt. I think it is still somewhere in our attic.

While I was painting this predella, the child who was being born on the left, by then two years old, ran his fingers across it and said 'Look Daddy! Tram lines!' Luckily I only used simple pigments that do not seem to have done him any harm!

Lastly, my experiences of Italian cycles and predellas seem to have become embedded in my artistic personality. I do not feel I am doing anything really serious if I am not involved in some monstrous project that would be very hard to place anywhere.

In fact, for rather more than thirty years I have been attempting to make a 'Life of Christ' in ninety-one scenes. I am now within four paintings of the end of my fourth try. All prayers and good wishes gratefully received!


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