Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2010
Bailey takes the good thief's view
Aviation artist goes all out to provide new depiction of Christ's crucifixion
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
It's a bloody scene-all of it the product of the curious imagination of artist Robert Bailey.
In his new painting, They Hung my Lord Upon a Cross, Bailey, 62, shows us the crucifixion of Jesus through the eyes of one of the two criminals who was executed alongside him.
This is the criminal who, in a brief conversation with Jesus while waiting for his death on the cross, had asked the Lord not to forget him: "Remember me Lord when you enter your kingdom," he had told the crucified Lord. "I promise you that today we will be in paradise," Jesus replied.
Bailey is a renowned aviation artist based in Stony Plain whose art, mostly combat paintings from the Second World War, is found in museums worldwide.
Just over two years ago, he decided to start painting religious art as well.
"Artists have been painting the crucifixion for centuries and I wanted to give my version," Bailey said at the time. "I've been called by God to make a series of paintings with Jesus as the focal point."
His first painting, Forgive Them, was a bloody closeup of Jesus' torso moments before he died.
His new painting, as seen by the criminal to the right of Jesus, is no less bloody. As Jesus' blood has enormous symbolic importance to the Christian faith, Bailey ensures that we see lots of it. We see it in abundance on the top of the right transverse beam as well as throughout the right side of the Lord's body.
Bailey's crucifixion painting is as original as it can be. Last August, aided by skilled makeup artists, he re-enacted the crucifixion in his backyard to have a blueprint for the painting.
A volunteer model, Lee Richardson, 35, played Jesus while some members of Bailey's parish - Holy Trinity in Spruce Grove - played the crowd witnessing the crucifixion. Richardson played Jesus' in Bailey's first painting.
HUNDREDS OF PHOTOS
Photographers, Bailey included, took hundreds of photos of the reenactment to give him something to work with. He chose the photograph that best reflected what he had in mind.
"I think that most people are under the impression that artists sit down (in front of) a blank canvas and start to paint," commented Bailey. "But even in the Middle Ages, Rembrandt, for example, always used live models even for his inspirational paintings."
Bailey spent about 120 hours in January, working on the 48x32-inch oil on canvas. "I was trying to create a sombre, brooding atmosphere," he says. He succeeded through the clever use of sunlight, which breaks through little gaps in the clouds to highlight various people on the scene.
For instance, two beams of sunlight come down to highlight the face of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is standing beside Veronica, who has blood on her hands and face after she went up and kissed the Lord's feet.
Bailey also uses sunlight to highlight the back of Jesus' head, giving it a golden texture. The rest of his body is in deep, sombre, depressing shades.
First in the crowd is the Roman centurion, who was in charge of the all the Roman soldiers and who, following Jesus' death, said: "This truly is the Son of God." Deacon Pat Hessel played the Roman centurion in the crucifixion's reenactment.
Also prominent on the right side corner of the painting is the Roman soldier who helped nail Jesus to the cross. He has blood on his hands and on his chest plates. "He is beginning to realize that Jesus is not just another prisoner," explained Bailey. "He realizes that (Jesus) is very special and that's why he has a very thoughtful expression on his face."
Further on the right side of the painting are the high priests who convicted Jesus. As Bailey put it, they are probably the only ones in the crowd who think Jesus' is getting what he deserved.
This is the only painting Bailey has done where he has become emotional. "When I was painting Jesus on the cross I was emotionally moved, my eyes were filling with tears," he recalled. "Imagine painting this; you know what he must have gone through and he had done nothing wrong. This was all the result of politics."
TOKEN OF APPRECIATION
Nobody commissioned this painting or the previous one. "As with the other one that I did two years ago, it was just something that I had to do as a token of appreciation to God for giving me success in my other work (aviation art)," Bailey explained.
"The other thing is I don't want to be known as someone who painted only combat - people trying to kill each other. I want to continue to do inspirational paintings that will inspire people."
Bailey said his new Jesus painting can go for as much as $30,000. The first one - Forgive Them - he priced it at $20,000 two years ago.
Pricey as they are, Bailey is planning to donate the originals to the Church. People can order prints of the originals.
His next painting in the series will depict Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest. "In the background we'll see the palace guards and the Roman soldiers coming to arrest him," he said.
In May 2008 Bailey loaned Forgive Them to the National Museum of Catholic Art and History in New York.
The museum wanted it there on the occasion of the pope's visit to New York. But the painting got lost in the mail and wasn't found until five weeks later.
The lost painting got considerable media coverage in Canada and the United States. "So Jesus got a lot of publicity out of that," the painter laughed.
Bailey was born and raised in Staffordshire, England, and attended Longton College of Art.
He has been drawing and painting warplanes since he was four but was "sidetracked" into television and newspaper careers before realizing his dream of becoming an aviation artist some 19 years ago. Bailey came to Canada in 1964 and for a few years hosted a children's TV show in Kelowna.
Then he worked as a reporter/photographer for the Calgary Herald for 12 years until the late 1980s. That's when he decided to return to painting.
Bailey paints in the basement of his large house, producing about three or four new limited edition print projects every year. He recently completed work for George Lucas, the director of Star Wars, and is now working on individual paintings of 16 monks for Holy Trinity Parish. His wife Michelle assists him in every project.
For more information contact Robert or Michelle Bailey at 780-963-5480.
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