A series of paintings, Stations of the Cross, by Northwood-based artist John Hutchins, have gone on show in the Church of All Saints, Harrow Weald, for the 40 days of Lent. Here, Jonathan shares the background and thinking behind this major, ongoing artistic project with local churches:
Painting the Stations of the Cross
By Jonathan Hutchins
I am in the process of completing the project which I began in 2007, a project that has become a major part of my working life as an artist the last five years. I have painted two different versions with the orthodox Fourteen ‘Stations’ in each. All my Stations of the Cross are 24×18 inches in size and Oil on Canvas. Presently the first version of these Stations is in the Church of All Saints’ Harrow Weald for the forty days of Lent. All Saints’ vicar, James Mercer is very interested in supporting the arts both in a spiritual and more secular way, and regularly host exhibitions and artistic events at his church.
In January 2007 I had my first meeting with Simon Pothem, my vicar. He proved a charismatic mentor. My first idea of perhaps a nativity scene was soon discarded in favour of something more ambitious we then quickly settled on making a Stations of the Cross.
The Stations of the Cross, Simon favoured, must not be an ‘off the peg’ version which could be bought from any ecclesiastical supplier, but a group of paintings which expressed my own individual take on the theme.
To explain further my paintings I must explain Stations of the Cross:
There are in both the Catholic and Anglican Churches two established ways of making the ‘Fourteen Stations of the Cross’. The oldest and most traditional relates directly to the Via Delarosa, the Way of the Suffering. This is said to be walking in the steps of Christ and with the actual stopping places or “Stations” followed, by Jesus, on the way to his place of execution. It is still possible to follow this route in Jerusalem, although the veracity of the actual route can and is questioned. In the Traditional Version, some of the Stations themselves have been queried; did Jesus fall three times, precisely and at according to the intervals between the other Stations? Did Christ meet his mother on his way to Golgotha? Was Veronica a real person? The problem is that the Gospels do not support (or contradict) the use of these Stations. So are “Stations” followed by the Via Delarosa, absolutely true?
The Traditional form
- Jesus in condemned to death
- Jesus is given His cross
- Jesus falls the first time
- Jesus meets His Mother
- Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls the second time
- Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls the third time
- Jesus is stripped of His garments
- Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
- Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense
Because the problems of establishing the truth of the “Via Delarosa” from the Gospel accounts of Christ’s Passion, in modern times a new Fourteen Stations has emerged and been sanctioned for use by both the Anglican and the Catholic Churches. This is an alternative 14 Stations which are gaining in favour. They are held by some as more true to the Gospels. Although the Traditional form is equally and still perfectly acceptable by both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church and indeed may be held by many as the only true form of the 14 Stations); this “Scriptural” alternative only includes what is in the Gospel narrative.
The First Version which I decided to attempt was this “Scriptural Version”.
The ‘Scriptural’ Stations of the Cross
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested,
- Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin,
- Jesus is denied by Peter,
- Jesus is judged by Pilate,
- Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns,
- Jesus takes up His cross,
- Jesus is helped by Simon to carry His cross,
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,
- Jesus is crucified,
- Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief,
- Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other,
- Jesus dies on the cross,
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Scriptural Version also Oil on Canvas and 24 X 18 inches. They were my first Station of the Cross.
Simon left in late 2007 and in the autumn 2008, we had, after an interregnum the current vicar Paul Hullyer came to St John’s, he liked the paintings, as paintings. However he regretted my choice of the scriptural version and so I decided initially to paint extra ‘stations’ to replace the non-traditional ones. I then decided to go the extra mile and produce two complete versions as I now saw merits in both approaches.
The first version was completed last year; the second Traditional version is very nearly complete. the first version was exhibited in the Chapel of Bishop Ramsey School, Ruislip, last year and is now currently in the All Saints Church, Harrow Weald for the six weeks of Lent. The second version will be shown next year in St. John’s Pinner, again for the 40 days of Lent.