Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water (1907)

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water, c. 1907, oil on canvas, Des Moines Art Center, Image Source: wikimedia

“Tanner favored religious subjects, in part because of his family’s strong spiritual convictions and professional ties to the church. The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water interprets the Gospel of Matthew (14:24-28): But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightaway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. Rather than making Jesus the focus of the composition, Tanner highlights both the mystical atmosphere and the Apostles’ startled reactions to the scene. The arrangement is cropped below the horizon line which allows for the entire event to happen in the monochromatic expanse of the water, enhancing the uncanny tone of the work. Interestingly, Tanner portrays the sea as calm, although the Gospel describes it as “tossed with waves” because he preferred meditative scenes. In the boat, each Apostle poses with expressive tension: Peter, the tallest figure, lowers his head and appears to be either extending his arms in acceptance or perhaps grasping the rigging for security, another kneels in prayer yet arches backwards with trepidation, and the figures in the stern cower and cover their eyes. Christ is depicted as a ghostly column of light in the upper left corner of the painting whose path is lit by the moon’s reflection on the sea. Alongside this compelling narrative, the painting is one the strongest examples of Tanner’s masterful use of color. The scene plays out in endless variations of blue. The thick layers of paint add a rich texture to the surface, and add even more depth and shading to the water, sky, and figures.”

Des Moines Art Center,
I think this video might be targeted at children, but I enjoy the close-up shots of the painting.

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Henry Ossawa Tanner at wikiwand

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Henry Ossawa Tanner paintings at wikimedia

Tag: Henry Ossawa Tanner At Sunnyside

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. shoreacres says:

    I was surprised to see the Des Moines Art Center listed. I grew up in a town about thirty miles away, and that was the first art museum my parents took me to when I still was in grade school. I didn’t realize until now that, at the time, the museum was younger than I was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How about that! Thanks for sharing your memory, Linda. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely beautiful painting!!! Thank You! 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katy. 😎❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure! ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tanner’s painting really captures the spiritual element of the story. Beautiful painting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Aletha. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed viewing this painting and can’t decide what I like best about it. It would either be Christ as an ethereal figure or Peter’s bold reaction. Thank you, Sunnyside, for a lovely and interesting piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, Susan! I love paintings that tell a story. 🙂


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