A Treasury of Anglican Art

By Hefling, Charles C. | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

A Treasury of Anglican Art


Hefling, Charles C., Anglican Theological Review


A Treasury of Anglican Art. By James B. Simpson and George H. Eatman. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2002. 224 pp. $50.00 (cloth).

This could have been a splendid book.

The idea behind it is excellent: to sample the wealth of artistry associated with Anglicanism, in nine chapters that focus on fabric, glass, icons, calligraphy, metal, mosaic, painting, stone, and wood. Buildings as such are omitted-wisely, since they could fill another book-but the interior architecture of churches appears frequently, as the setting for other arts and sometimes in its own right. A tenth chapter, "Anglican Life," adds historical and contemporary depictions of Prayer Book worship and other interesting miscellanea.

Art is Anglican, for purposes of the book, if it is (or was) part of the fabric or furnishings of a church that is (or was) Anglican. In practice, the scope of this definition does not extend much beyond the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, but it does allow much to be included that has become Anglican by adoption and grace, so to say-the icons, for example, and the Rubens that found its way to the Kings College chapel. Occasionally the Anglican connection is pretty tenuous. Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee, for instance, happens to have belonged to an Episcopalian, but that is its only qualification. Meanwhile, the most renowned of indigenously Anglican paintings, Holman Hunt's Light of the World, is noticeably absent. But then, other examples of high Victorian, high-church art and craft are plentiful. This is very much an Oxford Movement book. Beauty and reverence, we are told, were virtually banished from Anglicanism until the Tractarians arrived on the scene. Correspondingly, the book passes over almost everything between the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century, except for some silver altarware.

The twentieth century is well represented, however, apart from calligraphy. There are works from Coventry Cathedral, as you might expect, though the illustration of Graham Sutherland's gigantic tapestry has been cropped in an inexplicable, not to say barbaric, way.

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