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Herman Trunk’s Cubist Crucifix: A Case Study

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image of Religion and the Arts

Abstract American modern artist Herman Trunk (1894-1963) serves as a noteworthy case study in a consideration of the relationship between religion and American modern art in the first half of the twentieth century. One of his few overtly religious works, Crucifix (c. 1930), stands out for its intriguing convergence of a most important Catholic subject with Cubist art. This essay examines Trunk’s Cubist Crucifix in relation to other Crucifix and Crucifixion paintings created around the same time period. Trunk’s Crucifix is unique among abstract paintings of religious subjects in the artist’s distinctive use of Cubism to create a quiet meditation on the crucified Christ. In some respects affirming the long tradition of Crucifix and Crucifixion paintings, Crucifix also counters those traditions to provide an alternative perspective on the Crucifix as a subject. Through his Crucifix painting, Trunk successfully brings together two traditions that historically have been viewed as diametrically opposed—Catholicism and Cubist abstraction—to produce a devotional image of the Crucifix as a form of veneration.

Affiliations: 1: Emmanuel College, URL:


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