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Spirituality and/in 20th-Century Art - J. Evens

Spirituality and/in Modern Art

by Jonathan Evens

The story of modern art has therefore often been told solely as a secular narrative but that telling of the story ignores the influence of spirituality more generally, and Christianity in particular, on its development.

Roman Catholic artists played prominent roles in Post-Impressionism, the Nabis, Fauvism and Cubism. Jacques Maritain’s Art and Scholasticism and the Thomistic Study Circles, which met at his home, influenced many artists.

Expressionist artists frequently painted biblical narratives while Futurism developed a strong strand of sacred art. Abstraction was viewed by many as the best means available to artists for depicting an unseen realm. Suprematism and Abstract Expressionism were both influenced by the underlying principle of icons.

Dominican friars and Anglican clergy alike called for the great artists and architects of their day to design and decorate their churches. A revival of traditional icon painting occurred with centres in Greece, Russia, Europe and Scandinavia. Visionary artists abounded within Folk Art while many mainstream visionary artists also used Christian themes and imagery.

In response to the growth of Christian art on the Asian continent, the Asian Christian Art Association was founded in 1978 to encourage the visual arts in Asian churches.

Australia encouraged contemporary religious art through the establishment of the Blake Prize in1951.

Polish Art in the 1980s was marked by a profound interest in the whole question of the sacred in art and many exhibitions were held in Roman Catholic churches.

There has also been extensive use of Christian imagery by BritArt artists with such iconography and narrative often used as a frame for the artists’ critiques of contemporary life, including politics and culture.