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The Folly of Samson, 2005
Oil on canvas, 46 x 66

“Now afterward it happened that [Samson] loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. . . . Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ So he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes. . . .”
Judges 16: 4, 20, 21

The Folly of Samson is a companion to The Prayer of Daniel the Prophet. Daniel was a man of integrity who stayed faithful to God in the midst of a godless society. He used his God-given gifts for the glory of God and the benefit of his godless neighbors. Samson, though chosen by God, was a man of compromise who lived a lifestyle of disobedience. He gave in to lust and was unfaithful to his calling as a Nazarite. Samson is a poignant example of the bondage that can result when a believer willfully and repeatedly disobeys God. His strength gone, Samson is depicted as open and vulnerable. The last thing he sees before he is blinded is the woman with whom he had foolishly sinned, who had betrayed him for 5,500 pieces of silver. “I have painted Samson as an ordinary, even scrawny, individual,” explains the artist. “His great strength was not the result of an extraordinary physique; it was a supernatural endowment from God.” Pomegranates are a symbol of the church. The upset plate of fruit shows that, although Samson is a believer, his actions, especially because he is a leader, affect others as well and hurt the body.

 

Samson, head study, 1997
Pencil on paper, 8 1/4 x 10 1/4

Gjertson conceived his work in contrast to the monumental depiction of the theme by 19th century English artist Solomon J. Solomon. In the late 1970s he painted a small study of the design which established his basic idea. He did several drawings and studies for Samson in the 1980s but was unable to begin working in earnest on the final drawings until 1997. He underpainted the work in 1999 and completed it during the fall of 2004 and the winter of 2005.

Philistine Warrior, 1997
Pencil and white pencil on paper, 13 1/2 x 12

The artist did many drawings for each figure in pencil on tracing paper. When he had established the gesture and shapes to his satisfaction, he did more finished drawings, such as this, on better paper. Even though the earlier drawings may be perceived by some as more “expressive,” he discarded most of them because the later drawings are more useful in the process leading to the final painting.

Samson, 1997
Chalk on paper, 15 3/4 x 19

This is one of many drawings that the artist did for Samson’s torso, hands and legs. Gjertson prefers to do his drawings in pencil, but sometimes uses variously colored chalk.

Delilah, figure study, 1998
Pencil on tracing paper, 28 1/4 x 10 1/2

Gjertson wanted the Philistines to explode outward around Samson, in contrast to those in Solomon’s work, and he established their gestures rapidly. The gesture of Delilah was more difficult to resolve. Instead of melodramatically taunting Samson, like Solomon’s Delilah, she glares at him in dispassionate contempt. In his initial studies Gjertson clothed Delilah in an orange drapery. He later decided against it, since Samson’s desire for her was a crucial element in his ultimate undoing. This is one of many full-size studies for her figure that survive.

Samson, head study, 1997
Pencil on paper, 8 1/4 x 10 1/4

Gjertson conceived his work in contrast to the monumental depiction of the theme by 19th century English artist Solomon J. Solomon. In the late 1970s he painted a small study of the design which established his basic idea. He did several drawings and studies for Samson in the 1980s but was unable to begin working in earnest on the final drawings until 1997. He underpainted the work in 1999 and completed it during the fall of 2004 and the winter of 2005.

Philistine Warrior with Spear, 1997
Pencil and white pencil on paper, 13 1/2 x 12

The artist did many drawings for each figure in pencil on tracing paper. When he had established the gesture and shapes to his satisfaction, he did more finished drawings, such as this, on better paper. Even though the earlier drawings may be perceived by some as more “expressive,” he discarded most of them because the later drawings are more useful in the process leading to the final painting.

Samson, hand study, 1997
Pencil and white pencil on paper, 7 x 10 1/2

Philistine Warrior, back view, 1997
Pencil and white pencil, 15 x 20

Philistine with a Rope, 1997
Pencil, 9 x 12

Philistine Pulling a Rope, 1997
Pencil, 13 1/2 x 12

Gjertson’s son, Philip, posed for all of the Philistine figures. Other friends posed for the heads.

Samson, 1997
Pencil and white pencil, 15 3/4 x 16 3/4

Gesturing Philistine, 1997
Pencil, 12 x 14

Philistine on Floor Pulling a Rope, 1997
Pencil and white pencil, 15 x 20

 

Philistine Binding Samson, 1997
Pencil, 18 x 21 1/2

 



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