Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Painting the World: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Painting the World: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings

Article excerpt

Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and their Meanings. By John Drury. New Haven and London: Yale University Press in association with National Gallery Publications Ltd. xv + 201 pp. 151 color illustrations, 19 black and white. $25.00 (cloth).

This book began as a Christmas gift, and it deserves to play that role again for any art lovers-experts and neophytes both-on your holiday list. In his introduction, John Drury recounts his fourth Christmas sermon as Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. As people entered the cathedral, they were handed postcards of Poussin's Adoration of the Shepherds. His sermon-a Christmas gift to his own congregation-was to restore this painting to its religious context and thus its fullest meaning. Later, Drury sent a copy of this sermon to Neil MacGregor, Director of the National Gallery, London and himself a powerful advocate of the religious content and context of the images he safeguards for the British government. Lectures on the Church and the arts at the National Gallery and Oxford followed-and now this beautiful volume, Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings.

This is not a coffee table tome but a fascinating read from start to finish. Drury uses the paintings of the National Gallery, London to illuminate the theology underlying the history of Western art. He shows us how to see, how to meditate upon, and how to think about this heritage. He writes well, engages the reader, and demonstrates an astonishing breadth of knowledge as he discusses artists from Duccio to Cezanne. The number of paintings discussed is remarkable, reminding us what a truly great collection of works is available at London's National Gallery. …

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