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The Meeting: Hitler and Christ Meet in Hell by Carol Knowlton-Dority

The Meeting: Hitler and Christ Meet in Hell
acrylic on canvas  •   36" x 24"
Collection of the Artist

This work was the subject of a panel discussion during the 2007 Toronto School of Theology exhibit. Details here »

This work was featured in an exhibit titled "Facing the Dark Side: Transendence" at the RedEye Studio Gallery in Toronto's Distillery District held March 2-13, 2005. See gallery review here »

Painting responses

I continue to think about your powerful image of Hitler, whose eyes, while ambiguous, are also boyishly vulnerable before us, before Christ in us, behind us, above and beyond us. What I see in those eyes, are a reflection of my own, in need of forgiveness, but doubting that I deserve it, for things I have said and done with hatred in my heart, with a desire to impose my will on those who have posed a threat to me, to overcome their power and authority over me, to demand recognition and respect, only to see hurt, bewilderment and defeat in their eyes. In some instances, like with my own father who had too often wielded his power in ways that hurt and humiliated me, it was the last look I remember, face to face. The light, the fire, was gone from his eyes. To my boyish mind (10 years old) it seemed as though I had destroyed him. Shortly after that, he died of the brain cancer that had been part of what caused him to be so destructive toward me. In my work, of course, I face many such faces, faces that go from love to hate, hope to fear, profound hurt to pleasure in hurting, trying to find ways of understanding and re-working that awful outcome, repeating in the hope of repairing the damage I’ve done, and the damage that was done to me.

What we see in the face of the Other, and how we are seen, is shaped by many things. What we do about it also depends on many things, including our openness, in prayer and in dialogue with ‘That which is’, but is never fully known, that which the Hebrews and Muslims believe, cannot and should not to be named or rendered, too specifically or concretely in words and images made by human hands.

Your painting conveys that profound respect and humility, even as it owns and shares your/our capacity to picture yourself in His/Her shoes… John Sloane/ Feb. 2010

Bringing together the symbolic ultimate opposites of goodness, compassion and sacrificial love in the person of the Crucified and the embodiment of evil in the swastika bearing Hitler, sitting small and frightened reflects many philosophical notions about the togetherness of opposites. The fact that Hitler looks frightened and concerned, rather than proud and happy, indicates that he is aware of deserving judgment, and concerned about it. The wounded hand of Jesus, however, is not raised in anger to smite him, but is relaxed and suggestive of a loving touch, as the shadow of the hand is close to touching the wizened figure of the former "Fuehrer". The harrowing of Hell during the interval of Good Friday and Easter Sunday was the source of the idea of the depiction, and the way it is envisioned is not as a mighty conquest, or a condemnative judgment, but rather, as a calming presence.

John Mayer, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Brock University

The picture reminded me of a question that was raised by the play "Aunt Dan and Lall," which was staged in Toronto many years ago. The question was whether Hitler thought himself to be evil. My guess is "no", based solely on the reasoning that the only way he could justify (to himself) the deaths of so many would be that he would have to reason that it was for the greater good. Otherwise, he could not live with himself. How do I get from your picture to this question? It is the look on Hitler's face. I see a lack of comprehension in his face, as if he is asking himself "Why am I in hell, when I have done so much good?" Others may interpret his expression differently; some may see resignation or a trace of fear in the presence of great power, but I do not. I actually see faint hope. The expression raises the possibility that Hitler is thinking "Here is someone who will recognize the good I did on earth and may save me from this terrible place."
- Greg, Toronto, December 2009

From: ####@usa.net
To: carol@carolknowlton-dority.com
Subject: Question...

Today, Holy Thursday, I had the privilege of attending a service at the Franciscan Center in Tampa where the presenter, a Franciscan Priest, led us in a meditation using your painting "The Meeting: Hitler and Christ Meet in Hell. I am very interested in learning more about your work. Do you have photos of your paintings online ?

Gail ###
Tampa, Florida

From: ###
To: carol@carolknowlton-dority.com
Subject: Hope in Hell
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2006 21:01:14 +0200

My name is ### and I am a Roman Catholic priest in ###. I saw in internet your picture "Hitler and Christ meet in Hell" and I was very impressed by it. Tomorow I have lecture about the christian doctrine of hell and your picture points the same idea which I will try to develop in my lecture. Specially I will present the theology of hope by great theologan Hans Urs von Balthasar. He developed the idea that Christ entered into the hell so that we can hope for all men. None is alone in hell, because Christ is always in the hell with the damned. Hell is for Balthasar "christological place"...That means that we should also hope for Hitler... Therefore it follows that the true christian hope can be only christological hope, the hope for all ...

I tried to get know more about you, dear Carol, but I did not find anything about your art and biography. Tomorow I will present your picture, so I would be very grateful, if you could explain me more about the picture "Hitler and Christ meet in Hell" and about yourself (your art).

Sincerely, Fr. ###

Dear Carol,

I held the lecture about the christian understanding of hell and presented your painting "Hilter and Christ". I explained your painting through the theology of Holy Saturday of Hans Urs von Balthasar: hope for all; christian hope is not "cheap hope" ("keine billige Hoffnung"), but "expensive hope" ("teuere Hoffnung"), which is represented in your painting by Christ's wounded hand... The reaction was very positive... Lots of people asked me who the artist is... I can say that your painting was the culmination of my lecture.

The next lecture is about christian understanding of heaven. The first was about purgatory.... So, I would like to thank you for your beautiful painting and for sharing with me your thoughts...God bless you and especially on Holy Saturday you will be in my prayers...

Father ###

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Copyright © 2008, 2010, 2016 • Carol Knowlton-Dority • Toronto, Ontario, Canada