Although this exhibition features only one painting, it is sure to evoke contemplation fit for a retrospective. Discover the “what” and “where” here.
As part of its occasional “In Dialogue” series, the Snite Museum on the campus of Notre Dame University will feature one of the masterpieces held in its permanent collection. Beginning January 10 and on view through March 13, Henry Mosler’s (1841-1920) “Forging the Cross” will surely offer viewers “many interpretive possibilities,” the museum states. “The installation brings together diverse voices from across campus to create an open and ongoing understanding of Mosler’s turn-of-the-century synthesis of art, history, religion, and gender roles.”
Despite myriad possible interpretations, the picture is absolutely captivating from a formal perspective. Within a dark and drab blacksmith’s forge, three young men work in unison to fabricate a cross. An older man, facing away from the viewer and in the background, is presumably the master blacksmith and feeds the flowing fire. At center of the composition — between two of the three young men — is an intimidating matriarch who glares out upon the viewer. Along the right edge of the picture we find an open doorway leading outside. However, our view of the landscape beyond is largely obscured by a gathering of girls and young women, who gaze into the studio with eager anticipation.
Indeed the image appears to be oozing with narrative and interpretive potential. Each figure represented likely belongs to the same family, displaying the family’s trade and gender roles. The males in the picture are completely focused on the task at hand, each shown with worn clothing and dirty hands. The matriarch at center dominates with her confident pose and energy. Perhaps the sparking fire that glows just behind her figure implies her fiery personality.
To learn more, visit the Snite Museum.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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