The Works (or Icons) of Carl Bloch

Carl Bloch Altarpiece at BYU Exhibit

The most recent Ensign (Apr 2011) has a six page photo spread of the current Carl Bloch:  Reaching Toward Heaven exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art.

According to the Ensign:

Nine years in the making, the exhibit highlights four larger-than life altarpieces of Christ from churches in Denmark and Sweden, and one former altarpiece.  This is the first time they have been shown together.

In 1973 President Thomas S. Monson traveled to Fredericksborg Castle in Hillerod, Denmark, to see 23 Carl Bloch’s paintings of the life of Christ.  Dawn Pheysey, curator of this exhibit quotes President Monson as saying, “When I see a Carl Bloch painting, I feel . . . the spirit of Jesus and His ministry comes alive.  I want to follow [His example], and, as a result, the depiction becomes a vibrant lesson of life.”

When I looked at the photographs in the Ensign, which are as much about the exhibit as they are of the paintings, I became a little uneasy.  

It appears that several are set up in a small-chapel-type environment, with chairs for worshippers placed in front of the religious art work.  A venue where the icons can transport the viewer to a higher plain.  The Bloch images of Christ are being treated like icons; the small-chapel set up becomes a spot where “the depiction becomes a vibrant lesson of life.”  The Bloch images become Christ.

The worshipping of icons has historically been frowned upon in Mormon religious practice.  I wonder if the Bloch exhibit has gone just a little too far in the direction of icon worship?

As I have pointed out in an earlier post, activities like pilgrimages are also being promoted by the LDS Church.  I wonder if the differences between Mormonism and other conservative Christian religions isn’t narrowing just a little too much?

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