Philip Suffolk Explains
To the Editor of the Catholic Herald.
S 1 R,--1 have much honour and pleasure in making the illustrations for Fr. Martin
dale's articles on saints. 1 am sure he will look on my defence with his usual fatherly kindliness, to which indeed I had imagined I had owed the privilege of doing this work. Although, now, it seems that, like St. Ambrose, I was chosen by an unauthorised elector, I still suspect Fr. Martindale of having been amongst " the populace that ratified " the choice; for he knew already what my style is like!
It was therefore with surprise that 1
found him leading the vanguard of the assault, in the controversy that ensued on the appearance of St. Francis Xavier.
In inviting me to explain exactly what I am attempting and why—Mr. Editor— you have set me a formidable task. But I think I can indicate in a few words some of the principal considerations which lie behind what I am doing.
Direct and Simple
My technique has been governed by a desire to make statements in a direct manner and with simple drawing, and to make texture and pattern suitable for combination with contemporary printing.
Religious art has latterly been concerned with accurate or perhaps emotional representation of human figures, and the results have been nullities glanced at and forgotten. Minor details of personal anatomy" bumps where every doll is entitled to have bumps," as Damon Runyon will have it—I believe may be suitable on a chocolate box, but I think them superficial and undesirable in specifically religious art. Quite different angles of Christ, His Mother, the angels and saints, strike me as significant, and I believe in pictures of them which shall emphasise the facts relating to them which are chiefly important and memorable, while omitting the negligible details which merely distract attention. If the results arc different from more conventional illustrations, I think I may claim that they arouse more attention.
Looked at from another point of view. The conventional illustration will often show a scene in the life of a saint.
My pictures are not scenes; they are assemblies of those attributes which make the saint chiefly significant from the spiritual point of view, and when the pictures accompany articles they must attempt, so far as is possible, to bring home the points that are made by the writer.
Thus I show St. Francis stepping joyfully from the smooth to the thorny. He is wearing, as was his wont, a coarse, ragged and mended loba (a sleeveless Eastern garment) and a Ceylonese hat. My model for this was shown in one of your recent issues on the head of " Radio's Personality Priest."
(As a Victorian one may, of course, question whether it is reverent to wear a hat with one's halo any more than in church : but perhaps the Rev. Mr. Barber, as a clergyman, will decide).
Over his heart he has " II-IS." His figure casts, not a shadow, but the light of the Cross over the sea to the East. With his face formalised (for he is not the principal figure), St. Ignatius stands behind distinguished by the chains with which he is often shown in pictures; for he said he welcomed chains for Christ's sake.
Sorry To've Puzzled You
Behind again a figure wearing a Cardinal's hat is suggested in shadow, as the symbol of the rejected ecclesiastical career which St. Francis might have had. It is shown as rejected—in accordance with an old convention of religious art—by the hand reversed; whereas the other hand which accepts the mission field is shown palm forwards.
I am sorry Fr. Martindale was puzzled by the figure which emphasises the last paragraph of his article. In the shadow at the bottom this figure holds the Union Jack, typifying, as the Catholic Herald put it, England's need to capture the mis sionary spirit. It also shows England coming to the East after St. Francis, but perhaps, in God's eyes, accomplishing so much less. She has her mission yet to fulfil.
Let Fr. Martindale Explain
The picture of the Holy Innocents in this issue shows them rejoicing in Heaven with the Holy Child standing on the Martyrs' Altar. Below a modern child stands between two school doors. On his right is a school door with a path to the foot of the altar. From the school on the left emerges a hand wielding a sword of secularism not very different from that which struck the Holy Innocents 2,000 years ago. Fr. Martindale's article makes all this plain.
I have dressed my design in a modern form, amongst other reasons, because I do think there are moderns who need the Christian message in a language that really appeals to them. I hope I do not " cut my own throat " in appealing to your readers.
PIIELIP R SUFFOLK.,