With Easter quickly approaching, as Christians begin to turn their gaze towards the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It seems like a great time for us to look for resources that will help us meditate on the cross and that will help prepare our hearts.
Since the dawn of Christianity, artists have been fascinated and stirred by the figure of Christ. His likeness appears in frescoes on the walls of catacombs that date from Roman times; he is featured in the stained glass windows of cathedrals and churches, and he can be found in various forms in today’s pop culture.
To that end I’d like to suggest a list of Easter-related art titles that are well-written and beautifully illustrated here.
Christ in Art
This richly illustrated book explores the various ways that Christ is rendered in art, from Cimabue’s Nativity scenes and Fra Angelico’s paintings of the Crucifixion to the provocative portraits of Salvador Dalí and Andres Serrano. Author Joseph Lewis French guides the reader through the most iconic representations of Christ in art – tender or graphic, classical or bizarre, these images of the Messiah reveal the diverse roles of the Son of God in the social milieus and personal lives of the artists.
Even today, the splendid appearance of angels remains undiminished. Images of these heavenly and powerful messengers convey protection, innocence and calm, and have been an inspiration to religious artists throughout the history of art. This book illustrates the most impressive representations of angels, from delicate, whimsical cupids to majestic depictions of the archangel Michael, and from medieval to modern times.
Gothic art finds its roots in the powerful architecture of the cathedrals of northern France. It is a medieval art movement that evolved throughout Europe over more than 200 years.
Leaving curved Roman forms behind, the architects started using flying buttresses and pointed arches to open up cathedrals to daylight. A period of great economic and social change, the Gothic era also saw the development of a new iconography celebrating the Holy Mary – in drastic contrast to the fearful themes of dark Roman times. Full of rich changes in all of the various art forms (architecture, sculpture, painting, etc.), Gothic art paved the way for the Italian Renaissance and International Gothic movement.
Icon painting has reached its zenith in Ukraine between the 11th and 18th centuries. This art is appealing because of its great openness to other influences – the obedience to the rules of Orthodox Christianity in its early stages, the borrowing from Roman heritage or later to the Western breakthroughs – combined with a never compromised assertion of a distinctly Slavic soul and identity. This book presents a handpicked and representative selection of works from the 11th century to the late Baroque period.
During the Renaissance, Italian painters would traditionally depict the wives of their patrons as Madonnas, often rendering them more beautiful than they actually were. Over centuries in religious paintings, the Madonna has been presented as the clement and protective mother of God. However, with the passing of time, Mary gradually lost some of her spiritual characteristics and became more mortal and accessible to human sentiments. Virgin Portraits illuminates this evolution and contains impressive works by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rubens, Fouquet, Dalí, and Kahlo.
Little is known of Memling’s life. It is surmised that he was a German by descent but the definite fact of his life is that he painted at Bruges, sharing with the van Eycks, who had also worked in that city, the honour of being the leading artists of the so-called ‘School of Bruges’. He carried on their method of painting, and added to it a quality of gentle sentiment. In his case, as in theirs, Flemish art, founded upon local conditions and embodying purely local ideals, reached its fullest expression.
Early Italian Painting
Oscillating between the majesty of the Greco-Byzantine tradition and the modernity predicted by Giotto, Early Italian Painting addresses the first important aesthetic movement that would lead to the Renaissance, the Italian Primitives. Trying new mediums and techniques, these revolutionary artists no longer painted frescos on walls, but created the first mobile paintings on wooden panels. The faces of the figures were painted to shock the spectator in order to emphasise the divinity of the character being represented. The bright gold leafed backgrounds were used to highlight the godliness of the subject. The elegance of both line and colour were combined to reinforce specific symbolic choices. Ultimately the Early Italian artists wished to make the invisible visible. In this magnificent book, the authors emphasise the importance that the rivalry between the Sienese and Florentine schools played in the evolution of art history. The reader will discover how the sacred began to take a more human form through these forgotten masterworks, opening a discrete but definitive door through the use of anthropomorphism, a technique that would be cherished by the Renaissance.