Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Those frustrated with the art world’s prohibition of non-ironic religious art might enjoy this lecture from art historian John Walford. Walford begins by quoting a contemporary art critic who asserts the non-existence of serious art by Protestant Christians.  Walford then goes on to describe a lifetime of involvement with the very artists who presumably don’t exist: Greg Schreck , Bruce Herman , Joel Sheesley , and Makoto Fujimura among them.

Needless to say, this would not be art history’s first example of creativity flourishing despite being refused.  In the nineteenth century, work unacceptable to the formal Parisian Salon grew so voluminous that in 1863 Napoleon III established a Salon des Refusés (“exhibition of the rejected”), which ultimately resulted in a little something called Impressionism.

Are religious artists therefore the new Impressionists? Not necessarily, but the point is this: There are few things more catalyzing to creativity than not being allowed to exist.  We might therefore take a moment to pity the non-ironic religious artists of the future who will (inevitably) regain acceptance.  The mockery and/or refusal of religious art by the art world may be fleeting.  All the more reason to enjoy it.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles