Prof. Robson’s Praxis Practice: Sensates


Below Cambridge Professor of Art Brenda Robson reflects upon Summer Praxis and the Sensates practice she selected while on vacation in London.

“The Cambridge School of Dallas’ “homework” for this summer is to experience places of rest. I chose the Sensates (meditation on God’s creation in the form of praise using the senses, in this case: sight). I visited 3 Museums and chose one painting, in particular, to carefully observe and contemplate.

I am reading: Living the Sabbath, Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba. It is a part of The Christian Practice of Everyday Life Series which serves as the framework for this practice or “Praxis”.

For my first gallery visit, I looked at a Pre-Raphaelite painting at the Tate Britain called Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais. I am a huge fan of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood movement founded in London in 1848. They were opposed to the Royal Academy’s promotion of the ideal as exemplified in the work of Raphael. They were also in revolt against the triviality of the immensely popular genre painting of the time.

I love the symbolism of the candle burning in the window, the sacrificial lambs, carpenter’s tools, reeds in the basket, and Mary in indigo – all in bowed position to Christ who has cut his hand on a nail which foreshadows his crucifixion.  A young John the Baptist brings water to cleanse the wound (Baptism) as an assistant witnesses the scene, representing the future apostles. The ladder represents Jacob’s ladder and the dove is the Holy Spirit.


During my second gallery, the Tate Modern,  I saw Monet’s Water-Lilies juxtaposed with Rothko’s Red on Maroon.  The exhibit explored how Rothko studied Monet and sought to work on a large scale so the viewer could become immersed in the rich color of the painting.

While both are powerful, I personally do not think there is much to compare beyond the sheer size and vibrancy of colors of the two.  The Lilies are so profoundly affirming as they richly reflect God’s creation whereas all of the Rothko’s, while rich in color, feel very man-made and manufactured.


In my last visit, the Portrait Gallery, I was delighted to find an artist that I have studied extensively who paints with encaustics (hot wax mixed with oils).  This is a painting by Colin Davidson of musician Ed Sheeran. I have studied it online and in books but never in person.

Many other favorites were found from the Pre-Raphaelites (Millias, Rossetti,and Burne-Jones) and by my favorite of all time: John Singer Sargent.”

Visit her blog to see some more photos from her museum visits.