Images of Christ and Diversity

I received my copy of  BYU/Magazine (Winter 2011) last week.  The main article, written by Nathan N. Waite, is about the 19th-centry Danish artist Carl Heinrich Bloch.  The article, which parallels an exhibit of Bloch’s work at the BYU Museum of Art, proudly boasts that: “Once famed, then forgotten by the 19th-century art world, Bloch has again risen to prominence–this time a century later in a country far from his native Denmark.”

Bloch’s work has unfortunately become a mainstay of Mormon life.  His pasty-white images of Christ with their all-too-white robes are unbiquitous in LDS society.  Bloch is a major influence on the way Mormons envision Christ.  But a Scandinavian Christ doesn’t cut it with me any more.  If the Mormon Church wants a truly global church, it needs more diverse portrayals of the Savior:  some Scandinavian, some Oriental, some Aboriginal, some African, and, most of all, some Mediterrean.

I’m not a trained art critic and I don’t like Bloch’s portrayal of Christ, but I do enjoy his images of everyday Danish life.  According to Waite:  “viewing Rembrandt’s compassionate treatment of subjects–even common people with no social status–bolstered Bloch’s interest in painting everyday people and everyday moments.”  I particularly like Bloch’s painting titled:  Char Woman Feeding the Birds (1886)

"Char Woman Feeding the Birds (1886) by Carl Heinrich Bloch

In Bloch’s paintings of Christ, his works, while painstaking rendered, are overly staged.  But in Char Woman the scene is masterfully simple; the painting is inspiring in its simplicity.  It packs more of an emotional punch than all of Bloch’s Christ painting/murals put together.

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This entry was posted in Art, images of Christ, mormonism, Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Images of Christ and Diversity

  1. rogerdhansen says:

    Deseret Book has a new book out called “The Master’s Hand: The Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch” by Dawn C. Pheysey and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel. According to a DB promotional broshure:

    “Carl Heinrich Bloch is well know to Latter-day Saints. His religious painting have been featured in LDS meetinghouses, temples, and visitors’ centers throughout the world. This book includes over 100 full-color images, while Bloch’s biography and narrative provide a deeper understanding of how his works have inspired millions.”

  2. dorothy deasy says:

    Perhaps we will come to a new understanding of God when we are able to see the painting you’ve highlighted (Char Woman Feeding the Birds) as every bit an image of Christ as the ones in temple settings. The Resurrection means the world is full of the Christ Spirit. It is by embracing the loving, nonviolent Spirit that lives on in people of all genders (and multigenders), in all races and nationalities. Indeed, to truly embrace Christ is to see Christ in the faces of those from other religions as well. Not till then will we be able to see the Kingdom on earth.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    While in St. George last week (15 Mar 2011), a friend and I stopped at an art gallery which was exhibiting some of the works of a Mapleton, UT, artist. One of the other artists using the gallery was there painting. Several of her works were of Christ. I commented on the pale nature of Christ in one of her oils. Boy did that set off a discussion. She made two points perfectly clear: (1) she had been to Israel and the Jews are not that dark and (2) she had met several individuals who had had near-death experiences and they had assured her that her concept of Christ is correct. When I mentioned a possible suntan, she stated that Christ wore a shaw over his head. Clearly I had started a discussion where there would be no compromise.

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