James Christensen’s St Brendan

St Brendan, the Voyager by James Christensen
St Brendan, the Voyager by James Christensen (2004)

This is one of my favorite modern paintings of St Brendan. Modern attitudes toward Brendan come in two strains: those trying to prove it was a real voyage and those with a more whimsical take on the legend. Few today take the legend as it was intended, as a spiritual journey and example of monastic life.

James Christensen is a modern artist who is known for his whimsical paintings. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University where he then taught for many years. He has published three books of his artwork in addition to many prints.The best exhibit I’ve seen online right now is here. His work is widely published in prints, puzzles, cards etc. There are many sellers of his prints online.

This painting carries two of his trademarks, the fish and a checkerboard pattern. The floating fish, sometimes on a leash, is often but not always found in his work. Although the checkerboard pattern is not said to specifically be one his trademarks, if you look through the exhibit, I think you will find it on nearly half of them.

These Christensen prints always make me think of the late 1980s to early 1990s. Maybe its just because that is when I first began seeing them, but I think it also reflects the times. Perhaps it was recessions in the 1980s that made people fond of whimsical works. It was also a time when ‘country’ decor was popular, and if often featured checkerboard patterns. Perhaps it was the financial hard times that made people think of getting back to the (seemingly) simple country life. It was also a time when counted cross stitch and other crafts became popular, initially by people thinking that their work handiwork would be a meaningful but inexpensive gift. I think I first came across some of his works as Christmas cross stitch patterns. It makes me wonder if the current economic crisis will lead to a recovery in the handicrafts market. The problem there is that if you really get into counted cross stitch you find out that its an expensive hobby, if you do things the ‘proper’ way. Lucky for me, I have so many patterns and supplies in my closet I could do it through this recession – however long it lasts – and need very little except framing. 🙂 That’s the problem with really getting into a hobby. There is such a danger in liking to shop for supplies almost as much as doing the hobby itself!

Well, anyway, I like this painting. If its not going to be realistic, then you might has well let whimsy take control.

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