Art as Theology in Pawel Huelle's Last Supper
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Huelle's Last Supper, a fictional account of how the artist Swieszewski gathered friends for a "reenactment" of DaVinci's Last Supper, ostensibly concerns the state of the arts in Poland in the twenty-first century. This gathering provides the artist's post-modern view of the original painting. Huelle presents the fictional Swieszewski's take on modern/post-modern art, and characters opine on the state of so-called avant-garde art in Poland, kitsch, the follies of performance art, and the ridiculous measures artists take to be controversial. In defense of the Polish Last Supper, the narrator posits that the traditional has become the new avant-garde and praises his "ideal" artist, David Roberts, who starkly and authentically illustrated his travels to the Holy Land in the early nineteenth century. The narrator also imagines how Roberts mused on how past masters depicted scenes from the life of Christ and why they added impossible geographic phenomena to their paintings or omitted details from iconic scenes. The narrator thinks that even if Roberts had not read Vasari, he would have seen that they had added familiar landscapes to biblical painting to bring the Gospel home to their audience. In effect artists, not the Church, bring the Messiah home to the people. Thus Huelle criticizes the putatively reactionary Polish Catholic Church and offers his personal theology of Jesus. His views emerge especially at the end; twelve apostles sit at the table, but the middle seat remains empty and no one can answer the question: "But where is Jesus?"
Twentieth Century Literature Conference
Rydel, Christine, "Art as Theology in Pawel Huelle's Last Supper" (2010). Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants. 108.