First published: Spring 2014
Donald Pass (1930–2010) was an internationally acclaimed and successful landscape painter based in Cheshire, England, working through the 1950s and 1960s. His subject matter changed suddenly and completely following a tremendous transcendent visionary experience.
In 1992 he said, “The motivating force behind all my work began with an experience I had in 1969 when I felt as if a curtain had been removed, and I was a witness to the Resurrection, which was an awe inspiring experience. The whole of nature seemed to be transfigured, and I was aware of a vast landscape of rising souls, and the sky filled with angels. From that time on, every landscape I saw, up to the present day, is a source of inspiration for this experience of the Resurrection.”
Pass’ vision changed his entire perception of reality. He said, “I realised that a veil had been lifted and that I would never again see things in the same way.” At first he could not talk about his experience to anyone, for fear that he would be thought mad. Nor could he render it in paint as he felt all attempts to be inadequate.
Pass then rejected abstraction and turned his back on the art scene of London, embracing a figurative style with which he could convey his experience.
Pass had experienced other, smaller, transcendent experiences and visions that he felt were leading him to something huge. One of these was when a young man on a train foretold his future, including that “a small man who wore glasses” would help him. With his income severely affected following the change in his work’s subject matter, times had become financially difficult when he had a chance encounter with Sir John Rothenstein, then director of the Tate, who saw some of Pass’ Resurrection works and was so struck by the forms and technique that he did his best to encourage Pass to start painting again. Pass was sufficiently encouraged and did start working again, and did so consistently from then on, also being struck by the fact that Rothenstein was a small man who wore glasses. Rothenstein described Pass as “a spark of genius, a very rare talent.”