Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus

Title: Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus

Artist: Frank Mason

Medium: oil on canvas

Size: 142 x 200 cm

Date: 1992

Location: Private collection

In Acts of the Apostles 22:6-9, St Paul describes his encounter with Jesus. He had been on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, and as he approached the city around noon, a sudden a bright light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice state, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” Paul replied: 'Who are you, Lord?' And the voice proclaimed: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” Paul’s companions saw the light but did not hear the voice.

The sky is the dominate feature in Mason’s work, with the roiling clouds, the traces of a storm, and the opening at the top filled with “a bright light from heaven.” On the ground, almost insignificantly, are Saul and his party, stunned, bewildered, and arms at the ready. Unlike many traditional paintings of this event, Saul has not yet toppled from his horse. In Masons work he struggles, one hand on the reigns, the other trying to shield his eyes from the Heavenly glory. In the distance, illuminated by another break in the clouds, is Damascus, the city where Paul will be baptized and told “You must tell everyone what you have seen and heard.”

Frank Herbert Mason (February 20, 1921- June 16, 2009) was an American painter and teacher born in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended the Music and Arts High School in New York until he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Art Students League of New York with Frank DuMond. Mason studied with Dumond until DuMond's death in 1951, when he himself began teaching at the Art Students League. In 1964 he completed a major commission of eight large canvases on the Life of St. Anthony of Padua for the 11th Century Church of San Giovanni di Malta, Venice. In recognition of his work, the Order of Malta conferred upon him the Cross of Merit, Prima Classe. He became the first painter to receive the honor since Caravaggio.

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