Learning to Interpret Christian Art

Caravaggio
Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus, National Gallery, London (Wikimedia Commons)

In looking into some online educational resources, I recently fell down the delightful rabbit hole that is Kahn Academy’s series of presentations and videos connected with their AP Art History course. A section on culture and religion for art history begins with short lessons on the basic context of Christianity, standard scenes from the life of Christ in art, the image in early medieval art, and architecture and liturgy. The lessons culminate with a fine series of short videos, “The Audacity of Christian Art.” The beautifully produced series is written and presented by Dr. Chloe Reddaway, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Curator in Art and Religion at London’s National Gallery. Drawing on her background in both theology and art history, she leads viewers through rich visual elements of mostly Renaissance-period Christian art, pointing both to theological understandings and ways that viewers are invited to interact with the works.

Another resource I’ve recently discovered is ChristianArt. Aiming to help Christians to value art and to see its intrinsic connection with faith, former Director of Sotheby’s London, Patrick van der Vorst now provides e-mail subscribers a daily piece of art paired with one of the liturgical readings of the day, along with a short reflection on how the art and text enlighten each other. Works featured include both the old and the new.

For those hoping to provide contemporary viewers guides to visual literacy in Christianity, both of these resources are beautiful places to start.

One comment

  1. This pandemic has caused me to research liturgical art as I design our parish’s worship aids each week for parishioners to follow along while watching our livestreamed liturgies. In the process I’ve discovered many contemporary artists for example, He Qi, Jorge Cocco and James Janknegt and reintroduced myself to artists like Lalo García and John August Swanson. Even delved into Salvador Dali’s collection of religious art. Thanks for sharing!

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