This quiet painting by the Dutch 19th century artist, Anton Mauve, provides an opportunity for reflection upon the promises of Psalm 23 and of the author of the Gospel of Mark -- that God's love provides caretaking comfort.
Born in Zandaam in 1838, Mauve was a popular artist of The Hague School, an informal group of Dutch artists who worked mainly in the city of The Hague, Netherlands, between 1860 and 1900. Mauve was a leading member of this group and, with skillful technique and style, is said also to have been an influential figure in the early career of Vincent Van Gogh, Mauve’s cousin-in-law. As illustrated through this characteristic piece, Hague School paintings were most often landscapes, “beach scenes, views of everyday life, and church interiors.”
As the scholar Richard Muther makes explicit, artists like Mauve “paint things as vehicles interpreting personal and emotional moods…nature’s reality is to them only a means, not an end in itself.” The silvery and gray tones of Mauve’s painting beckon the viewer to move deeper into of one’s soul. Muther goes on to state that Mauve captures the “tenderness, melancholy poetry of nature.”
Considering this painting along with the lectionary texts for this week expands our awareness of God’s presence in the world, building upon the relationship between this world and the ‘other’ worldly. Echoing the line “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” one may realize not only the visual but also the soulful embodiment of the underlying tone of Psalm 23. We may ask ourselves, "What are the lived implications of walking through the darkest valley and yet fearing no evil?"
--  Ian Chilvers, The Oxford Dictionary of Art 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2004), 324. Ian Chilvers, The Oxford Dictionary of Art 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2004), 455; John Sillevis, “Mauve’s Water-Colours”, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 130, No. 1024, (The Burlington Magazine Publications: Jul., 1988)556-557; Grove Art Online Resource. Ibid., 324. Richard Muther, The History of Modern Painting v. 3 (Henry and Co 93st Martin’s Lane, London: 1896) 259. Ibid., 255.