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).
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.