An Interview With Artist Harry Anderson'
"We believe your paintings of the Christ, Brother Anderson, are a unique contribution to religious art because of the fact that you portray Him with such strength of character and manly physique mingled with that flash of divinity seen in your pictures. Could we ask what is the secret of your painting that enables you so dramatically to picture the Lord Jesus in modern setting as the dynamic figure He really
"When I think of our Lord, I think of Him as being in every quality of strength very much a man. The Son of God, I believe, was a healthy man, a powerful man. Most of the pictures I have seen of Christ make Him appear rather weak, effeminate, and emaciated, but if for no other reason than that of the clean, outdoor life that He led, I am sure that He was a strong dynamic figure."
"Perhaps you feel that inasmuch as He was a carpenter's son and knew the feel of the hammer, chisel, and saw, He most certainly developed strength of muscle and body?"
"Yes, I certainly would think so. Another fact that leads me to feel that He was a strong man with powerful influence and dynamic personality was His association with the fishermen who became His disciples. I do not believe that the strong fishermen of His day would have followed Him had He been a weakling. In order to appeal to that type of man, our Lord would have had to have the kind of powerful personality that would attract them. His personality would correspond with His physique."
"You have given us an interesting insight into your philosophy, Brother Anderson. When did you begin painting religious themes?"
"After I became an Adventist. The first picture I painted for our denomination was, I think, in 1943 or 1944."
"Which of your religious pictures do you consider your best, or which gave you the biggest thrill of achievement?"
"I am never satisfied with any pictures that I do. When I send them away I wish that I had made them better, but I believe the one I enjoyed doing the most was one that I prepared for a cover of The Youth's Instructor. You may remember that I painted Christ in the clouds, pointing into the distance, and below a young couple facing in the direction that Jesus was pointing. The idea behind the picture was Christ's commission to go into all the world and preach the everlasting gospel. I got a thrill out of doing that one, and I hope that it satisfied the youth leaders of the church."
"Indeed it did! That outstanding painting was the poster theme for the great youth congress held in San Francisco some years ago. It has been a great inspiration to our youth. One of your paintings that has been of special inspiration to me as a minister is the one of Jesus at the helm of the ship, with His hands on the wheel as the raging seas are portrayed on the right and on the left."
"That picture was among the first paintings I made in Chicago, and the first one I painted in colors after I became an Adventist."
"Did you use models?"
"Yes, they were all professional models."
"How were you able to portray such a magnificent look of confidence on the faces of the people?"
"I tried to direct them to stand in that manner. T. K. Martin, of the Art Department of the Review and Herald, told me he wanted the complete absence of fear on the faces of the people nearest to the Master at the helm. Those farthest from Him were the ones in distress. I tried to paint it in that way."
"One reason it is my favorite of all your pictures is that the hands on the wheel are hands of great strength. Do you remember the model that you used for those hands?"
"The model was a young fellow about twenty-five years of age, strong and husky, with a very good pair of hands, and on that helm I needed good hands."
"Do you notice any basic difference in painting religious pictures from that of secular themes?"
"The actual painting in either case involves the same work and effort, and in that respect there is not very much difference, but I do find that some religious paintings are considerably more difficult to do, because they require so much research in the fields of authoritative Bible costumes and background scenes from ancient cities.
"There is one type of picture that I just cannot do. I have been asked to paint scenes of the new earth, and I confess that my poor finite mind does not permit me to comprehend what the new earth will be like. All I can paint are the things I have seen—I cannot imagine things I have not seen. The same is true with respect to the original beauty of this world's creation. When I paint a tree, I paint it as I see it now, and I cannot paint what the world was like then in all of its perfect beauty, nor what it will be like in Eden restored. I feel very humble about painting scenes of the Garden of Eden and the new earth."
"Can you estimate about how long it takes you to complete a painting?"
"The average time taken for completing a picture, either a commercial or a religious theme, probably is from ten days to two weeks. That is the average; some may take much longer and some a little less time."
"Do you work on two or three pictures at a time, or do you generally stay with one until you have finished it?"
"Sometimes I have three pictures that I am painting at the same time. I have two in the process right now, and last week I had three."
"Brother Anderson, I wish I could convey to you in some meager way the tremendous inspiration that your paintings have been to many of us in the ministry. We are especially pleased with the way you have portrayed Christ. It helps us to preach Christ and to paint pictures on the human heart with words in the way that you paint pictures with oils. You have made a real contribution to religious art, and on behalf of our ministers around the world who have known your work, I want to say Thank you."
"Your kind words are appreciated very much. . . . I certainly do not feel that I have succeeded in the goal that I have set for myself, but I hope someone will come to the Christ as a result of some of my paintings. I want them to be soul-winning agencies for the Lord."
"You have already inspired many people with your gospel portrayals of the Christ. Your famous painting of Christ seated in a garden with little children about him, and one of them asking the question, 'What happened to your hand?' has been reproduced and is widely used in schools and Sabbath schools throughout the nations. It has brought a tremendous thrill to thousands of children,"
"Several of my paintings have been released by the Review and Herald for public sale. What Happened to Your Hand? has brought me many complimentary letters from people in all denominations. Many ministers have written very kind letters concerning it. These have been a real encouragement to me. When I paint pictures, as for instance the one that you are using on the cover of this present issue, I am thinking of the great group of people who may be led to accept the message of salvation. This solemn thought is constantly with me."
"Are there any particular paintings that you would like to do in the future on some great religious or sacred themes that you have been thinking about?"
"For the frontispiece in the new illustrated Desire of Ages I painted the face and head of Christ, but I feel that I must attempt again a portrayal of that matchless face. . . . That is one thing that I want to do very much."
"Such a painting would, I am sure, mean so much to us all. Some of us in the ministry would also like to see you do a painting that would depict a minister in the pulpit proclaiming the truth with Christ standing near him with the suggestion of participation in the service. Perhaps a small portion of a church congregation could be shown."
"If many faces are portrayed in the congregation it would be difficult, but it would be a good picture for ministers and laymen alike, to help them realize that Christ Himself is present in the church every Sabbath. It is quite easy, I think, to forget that fact."
"The thought thrills me, and I think this is a good note on which to end our interview. Thank you very much, Harry Anderson, beloved Seventh-day Adventist artist, for this very pleasant and informative visit. And may God continue to bless you as, with the touch of the artist, you seek to make His love real to modern man."
want to give at the Christmas season, and they are blessed in giving. Their conversation centers in the gifts they gave to relatives and friends. It then seems natural to lead them to think about God's "unspeakable gift." The Holy Spirit touches hearts, and often the gospel caller is entrusted with a thank offering. The offering is not solicited, for this is not the purpose of our call.
A kindly caution to the young Bible instructor just out of college. She may be in the mood to think of Christmas as a short holiday and an opportunity to leave town. Evangelism is intensive from start to finish and it can become exceedingly wearing at times. There is no question about the benefit to be derived from getting away from people, telephones, traffic, and problems. But when this is not timely, the true gospel worker cheerfully sacrifices these privileges to assure a good harvest for God's work. It is the hireling shepherd who will leave the precious sheep for the wolves to devour, and this must never happen in our midst.
We wish all our evangelists and their helpers a very happy holiday season. May the angels' tidings of "great joy" fill the hearts of ministers and Bible instructors, enabling all to herald the gospel of the Christ of the Christmas message with great power.
L. C. K.
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