Letters – January 7, 2016

| January 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Don’t edit history

The Nov. 19, 2015, issue of The Catholic Spirit reported on a controversy of the painting “Father Hennepin at the Falls of St. Anthony” by Douglas Volk, which includes a topless Native American entering from the right (“Capitol’s ‘Father Hennepin’ draws controversy as committee evaluates art”). The complaints seem to be that it isn’t realistic in various ways.

“Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls of St. Anthony” by Douglas Volk, c. 1905. Courtesy the State of Minnesota

“Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls of St. Anthony” by Douglas Volk, c. 1905. Courtesy the State of Minnesota

I believe, rather, the painting was meant to be transcendent. A friar stands holding high a cross in his hand as he names the Falls of St. Anthony. That is precisely what occurred at that moment: Two worlds converged, beginning one greater whole which included the cultural heritage of both, part of that being some traditional nudity common in great artwork.

On the 250th anniversary of this event in July 1930, a commemoration was held. A that time the Belgian consulate was housed in Minneapolis. The monarch sent personal greetings through their ambassador. Or has the Minnesota Historical Society edited that out of the records also?

But now, just after Brussels was in total lock-down struggling to keep their citizens alive, we are now told people don’t want this painting in the Governor’s Office. The Governor’s Office is exactly the right place to honor and highlight this moment for Minnesota in perpetuity.

Philip Harr
Holy Name, Minneapolis

Editor’s Note: The painting of Father Hennepin, who was Belgian born, is in the Governor’s Reception Room.

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