A world in which all religions are equal: this is the vision presented by French painter Paul-Élie Ranson in his painting Christ and Buddha (c. 1890). The Gemeentemuseum’s acquisition of this work gives it a magnificent new addition to its collection, which includes work by Symbolists like Jan Toorop, Johan Thorn Prikker, Ferdinand Hodler and Odilon Redon. The painting is now on display among work by these artists.
Around 1890 Ranson joined the Nabis (Hebrew for prophet), a group of young artists in Paris who were interested in spirituality and in depicting the divine. Ranson was more devoted to studying the message in theosophical and mystical texts, however. In Christ and Buddha we see Jesus Christ on the cross in the background; the five stylised lotus flowers symbolise various things in Hinduism. In the top right corner we see part of the face of a large Buddha figure, while in the left foreground there is a meditating Buddha. The work is in line with the trend among artists around 1900 of attempting to depict the divine and the intangible by means of abstraction and symbolism.
The painting was acquired with the support of the Mondrian Fund (which promotes art and heritage), the Rembrandt Association (with thanks also to the Schorer Romeijn Grothe Fund and the Van Beekhof Fund), BankGiro Loterij and the Friends of Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.