Wednesday, May 1, 2013

IN MEMORIAM- A GREAT GERMAN ARTIST






Resurrection
The German artist EGINO WEINERT died September 4, 2012. He devoted his life to creating some of the most unique and distinct pieces of liturgical art for spaces of worship around the world including the chapel of the Pontifical Academy of Sacred Music in Rome (which Bl. Pope John Paul II said was among the most beautiful he had ever consecrated). Collectors everywhere value Weinert's strong biblical images. Egino Weinert created all of his pieces solely with his left hand after losing his dominant right hand as a young man.


I first encountered his work through Hildegard Letbetter at Creator Mundi in Denver. (Creator Mundi imports Religious Art from Germany, France, and Italy. It is the official US importer of art from the German Abbey of Maria-Laach.The Stations of the Cross in our Chapel come from ML.)  I used his St. Hildegard for my 25th jubilee card.  We all have medallions of his to put on the top of our coffins.  I have 2: one of St. Hildegard for inside and one of the Good Shepherd for outside.

St. Hildegard

Born on March 3, 1920, in Berlin to devout Catholic parents the eldest of five children, the young G├╝nter Przybylski heard Romano Guardini  (considered one of the Catholic Churches greatest philosophers of the 20th C.) preach. It was to have a lasting effect on his deep faith.

While preparing to receive his first Communion he was greatly attracted to the priesthood and in 1934 entered the Benedictine abbey at M├╝nsterschwarzach. There he received the name Egino (years later his father changed the family name to Weinert). Egino had wanted to be a painter and a missionary, and was gradually allowed to apprentice in sacred painting, passing his goldsmith’s examination with distinction in 1941.


Good Shepherd

 
Jailed for refusing to say “Heil Hitler,” Egino was later drafted into military service taking every opportunity to work with other artists during the difficult war years.  While visiting his parents in Berlin in 1945, he lost his entire right hand when an electrical fuse proved to have explosives hidden in it. He then taught himself to write and paint with his left hand. He returned after the war to the monastery and was finally sent to attend art school in Cologne. In 1949 he was refused final vows, leaving the monastery with his faith still intact, but alone in the world. 

In 1951 he married Anneliese Leopold and they had four children. Eventually he settled in Cologne near the cathedral, and built a house and studio where he did all of his art.


St. Francis
Commissions and honors gradually increased for the struggling artist. He was helped by the great popularity of the small crosses he made for children receiving Communion. His enamel designs proved to reproduce beautifully on cards and calendars. He delighted in crafting chalices for young priests and became popular with American visitors to his shop. Pope Paul VI admired a cup-shaped chalice that Egino told him the cathedral chapter in Cologne had considered unacceptable, but that the pope declared blessed through his own use.

"The continuity of Egino Weinert’s work, artistically and religiously, is remarkable. His simplified, sinuous forms recall Ernst Barlach (a future blog) and seem of themselves to demand the bold colors, dramatic and yet tender, of his unblended palette. His unerring sense of scale, indebted to medieval stained glass and Netherlandish primitives, enables him clearly to distinguish principal figures and onlookers in settings that are detailed but never crowded. 


Baptism of Christ
He has a miniaturist’s sense of intimacy and yet the elemental feeling of Georges Rouault, whom he has long admired. Perhaps the lovely miracle of his art has been possible because it has indeed been his mission. “I want to see the whole Bible with the eyes of our time and let it become plastic,” he says. “For me Christ is not an otherworldly figure floating over humanity in a long robe. He is in our midst as a simple farmhand or a cabinet-maker” - or as a good shepherd, as were generations of Egino Weinert’s ancestors." (Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., is president emeritus of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.) 


 

St. Joseph with Child

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