Portrait of Christ, The Savior, 1894
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life
Surrounded by clouds, the radiant Savior appears to us as if in a vision. He extends his two fingers in a gesture of benediction or blessing as he gazes solemnly at the viewer with penetrating eyes. The faithful artist had great personal attachment to this painting. In 1905, he perceptively wrote what he intended to express in the work:
Originally I had painted it for myself, and only because of the persuasion of friends I exhibited it in my studio. I wanted to hang it over my bed and when I went to rest in the evening, it should look at me, earnestly scrutinizing, and ask: “Have you lived this day in my spirit according to my commandments?
Two years previously Hofmann had retired as professor at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, and was increasingly living a life of solitude. However, each Sunday he would open the doors of his studio to interested artists and admirers where this painting and others were on view. After he sold the painting to Mrs. Elise Drexler in 1904 he wrote:
I write this letter in my studio, which now seems empty and desolate, because its best paintings are missing. For many years I was used to see my savior’s eyes looking at me, and it is to me, as if something sacred is missing in this room. What reassures me thereby is the thought, that my works have found an owner, which will love and cherish them.
Mrs. Drexler must not have felt the same way for at some point she put this painting in storage and then lent it to a friend in New York City. Finally in 1944 she donated the painting to the Riverside Church where it has been revered by Christian audiences ever since.
by Angela Swanson Jones