This series of exhibitions examines works from the MMFA’s permanent collection that focus on art created as elements of series—multiple compositions that relate to one another in some fashion—depicting people, events in time, or other factors that establish their relationship to a common theme or thread.
In The Story of Christ, we focus on the way that various artists across the centuries have used the life of Jesus Christ as the springboard for works of art that depict a tremendous range of human emotion—reverence, joyous celebration, contemplative uncertainty, and finally the agony of psychological and physical suffering.
Some of the earliest images were intended as illustrations to the story of the gospels in the New Testament. Albrecht Dürer’s engravings and woodblock prints are some of the earliest printed imagery in Western Europe, and their purpose was two-fold: once they served as literal illustrations of the written word, but they also served as conveyors of the story itself in visual terms that could be understood by even those who could not read. Devout Christians who celebrated the events of Christ’s life in religious rituals were provided added context by widely distributed images such as those conceived by Dürer to depict the major events. Other early artists such as Martin Schoengauer created this type of imagery for publications other than the Bible, including breviaries and books of devotions that encouraged daily prayer and religious contemplation. Earlier imagery of Christ tended to place emphasis on his Passion leading up to the Crucifixion, and the suffering he endured, reminding the faithful of the necessity of suffering on earth to attain salvation in the afterlife.
Later artists such as Rembrandt integrated Christian stories and imagery into the wider theme of humanism, focusing less specifically on the suffering of Christ and more on the wider emotions that manifest his human nature within the context of his divinity. These images don’t emphasize divinity, but Christ’s appearance in the larger society and practices of his era.
In the 20th century, German artist Hans Grohs interprets the subject in a modern style that hearkens back to the stylistic characteristics of the earliest woodcuts. However, these are clearly more “modern“ images, with slashing, gouged lines that emphasize the drama and intensity of the scenes they depict. Foregoing detail to create a design that suggests the power of the event rather than directly describing it in detail.
Above: Martin Schongauer (German, about 1450–1491), The Baptism of Christ, about 1485, engraving on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Jr., in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr., 1998.3
Art in this exhibition focuses on the way that various artists across the centuries have used the life of Jesus Christ as the springboard for works of art that depict a tremendous range of human emotion.
Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama.
Support for this exhibition was provided by lead sponsor Lamar. Additional support was provided by sponsors Mr. Will Hill Tankersley and Dr. Kristin Tankersley and co-sponsors AmeriFirst Bank; Balch & Bingham, LLP; Mr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Campbell II; Ms. Camille Elebash-Hill and Mr. W. Inge Hill, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. L. Daniel Morris, Jr.; Dr. and Mrs. Alfred J. Newman, Jr.; River Bank & Trust; Warren Averett, LLC, and Valley Bank.