Albert Servaes (Belgian, 1883-1966)
Church interior (Intérieur d’eglise), N/D
Servaes’ 1919 Stations of the Cross of Luithagen was a collection of 14 charcoal drawings depicting religious figures, such as an emaciated Jesus Christ on the cross. These drawings represented a raw expressionist style of religious scenes of which the Catholic Church disproved. Due to Servaes’ brutal depictions of religious events, many of his works were removed from Belgian churches in 1921. In an effort to support and explore Servaes’ spiritual vision, Dutch Carmelite friar Titus Brandsma had the images published in Opgang, a Catholic cultural review. Alongside each image, Brandsma added his own meditation. The controversy demonstrates how expressionists were misunderstood in the public eye because their work distorted nature in a way that led away from beauty.
The fallout of the controversy left Servaes at a crossroads in his painting career. He focused on landscape paintings after the controversy and before World War II began. However, Servaes did not give up his grim exclusively-charcoal technique permanently. When he lived with the monks at Orval Abbey starting in 1927, he drew the residents there using his charcoal-expressionist style. By 1935, the public was more accepting of new art styles, and the monks commissioned Servaes to create a new Stations of the Cross collection.