Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Strange City in Shimmering Color

This week: the visit of my very talented photographer/artist friend Jeff Lefever in Paris and our side trip adventure to Prague. Jeff is the founder of the Foundation for the Biblical Arts and conducts ongoing photo-documentation of Sacred Spaces in Europe.

Prague is a world unto itself. We saw a documentary that described it as "a strange city in shimmering color". This is an apt description, as I was immediately struck by the fairy tale Bavarian architecture and vibrant colors in this city that is situated on a wide, calm river. ("Sunset Prague" study)

Buttery yellows, coral pinks, and oceanic turquoise animate the buildings. In contrast - Dark, pointy Gothic spires slice into the skyline.

Baroque sculptures and dramatic monuments line the famous Charles Bridge and the public squares of the city. As a painter who focuses on the expressive power of the human form in art, Prague is a treasure trove of inspiration.

Jeff and I had the opportunity to visit the Alphonse Mucha Museum - an entire museum dedicated to the artist who is the face of Art Nouveau, the decorative arts movement of 19th century Europe. It was humbling to see the scope and magnitude of the prolific artistic legacy Mucha left us. His skillful draftsmanship shows in the gorgeous serpentining linework and arabesque floral patterns adorning lyrical drapery-clad women.

Another high point (literally and figuratively) was The Cathedral of St. Vitus is a hike up to one of the highest points overlooking the city. This Cathedral has by far the most beautiful and vibrantly colorful stained glass windows I've ever seen in all my travels, one of which Alphonse Mucha designed. Stories from the Scriptures as well as the lives of the Saints and Slavic history are illustrated in vibrant, colorful glass.

I had the opportunity to tour the Jewish quarter of Prague, which impacted me deeply. The Czech Republic has had a rich Jewish history since the Middle Ages and at various times throughout history has peacefully fostered a flourishing Jewish community. (the exuberantly colored Jerusalem Synagogue below)

The oldest surviving European Synagogue is here, as well as a touching Hebrew cemetery, crowded with centuries-old tombstones and wildflowers springing up in purple and yellow, bringing a playful levity and remembrance of life in this heavy resting place of the dead. One of the synagogues is now a tragic memorial for some 80,000 Czech Jews who were deported during the Holocaust, and never returned home.

I was also moved by the Convent of St. Agnes, a medieval convent which has been transformed into a museum for Medieval art. It's thick stone walls are covered with gilded jewel-toned paintings, altarpieces, and intricate wooden sculptures of the Mystical life and Legacy of Christ that speak just as powerfully to us today as they did to their faithful but illiterate audience 700 years ago.

Prague lends itself well to leisure. Tourists and locals congregate by the river to relax, watch the sunset, listen to live music, and of course, drink beer. Prague is known for it's legendary beers and, more notably - for Absinthe. Jeff and I satisfied our curiosity by buying the most potent flask of pure Absinthe we could find in stores and renting a rowboat to venture out on the river and sample our new purchase. Hilarity ensued.

As is customary with our friendship, Jeff and I spawned earnest conversation, truthful introspection, and hearty laughter in everything from live blues to Medieval art and Absinthe. Thank you, dear friend - It was priceless.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Prague, Czech Republic

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