Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand

Yesterday for Family Home Evening [1] Leann and I went to see Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand. It's an exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art (MOA) featuring the religious paintings of Carl Bloch.[2] Bloch was a Danish painter during the latter half of the 19th Century. He was very popular during his lifetime [3] but he was largely forgotten after the advent of Impressionism. (This only reinforces my distaste for the Impressionist movement.)

In 2001 the MOA acquired one of Bloch's paintings, entitled "Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda."[4] The exhibit features another 40 works by Bloch on loan from museums and churches throughout Denmark and Sweden. It includes etchings, studies (small paintings used to plan larger ones), and full-sized paintings. The full-sized paintings were usually altar-pieces, which means they sat behind the altar of Lutheran churches. So they're huge. Some of them (this is me guessing) were over eight feet tall and six feet wide!

The recent resurgence in the popularity of Bloch's paintings is due in large part to the extensive use they get from the LDS church.[5] I suspect that this has partly to do with Bloch's ability to capture the intimate emotions of a scene. For example, consider the shame (but also awe) that Thomas feels when he finally sees the risen Lord (left). Bloch also manages to capture the majesty and divinity of Christ without sacrificing his humanity. You can learn more about his paintings and the exhibit here.

After viewing the Carl Bloch exhibit we made a quick round of the rest of the MOA. I particularly liked the "Hudson River School" and "White Mountain" paintings. This includes artists such as Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, Frederic Edwin Church, Homer Dodge Martin, Alfred Thompson Bricher, Albert Bierstadt, etc. They also have a café at the MOA, but since this is the week of Christmas, it was closed. So I took Leann to Slab Pizza instead.[6] I had the fennel-sausage-and-chèvre pizza. I love it, but Leann hates both fennel and goat cheese, so she refuses to take a bite. Go figure.

Anywho, I recommend you go see the Carl Bloch exhibit if you get the chance. But if you're like Leann, you might want to order something else if you go to Slab Pizza.


[1] Latter-day Saint (Mormon) families are encouraged to set aside Monday nights to spend with their families. This time, which we call Family Night or Family Home Evening, includes prayer, the singing of hymns, a lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and sometimes games and treats. It helps to strengthen the bonds between family members and reinforce the doctrines of the Church.

[2] The exhibit will run until May 7, 2011. Tickets are free and are available here.

[3] In fact, he was so popular that many churches couldn't afford Bloch originals, so they commissioned copies from less-expensive artists. There were even cases of rivalry between churches over just the copies.

[4] McClellan, Jeff. "The Art of Faith." BYU Magazine, Winter 2002.

[5] The only other artists that appear with roughly the same frequency would be Harry Anderson, Arnold Friberg, and Del Parson.

[6] They're a relatively new pizza restaurant just south of campus. They serve pizza in slabs, which are one quarter of a pizza. You can see their website here.

Image attribution:

"Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda" is by Carl Heinrich Bloch, painted in 1883. The image is in the public domain. It is available at http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8555-1-4779-4,00.html.

"The Doubting Thomas" is by Carl Heinrich Bloch, painted in 1881. The image is in the public domain. It is available at http://cfacbeta.byu.edu/departments/moa/carl-bloch-exhibition-museum-art-feature-major-works-denmark.

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