Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism

Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism

by Jonathan A. Anderson, William A. Dyrness

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Christianity Today's 2017 Book of the Year Award of Merit - Culture and the Arts For many Christians, engaging with modern art raises several questions: Is the Christian faith at odds with modern art? Does modernism contain religious themes? What is the place of Christian artists in the landscape of modern art? Nearly fifty years ago, Dutch art historian and theologian Hans Rookmaaker offered his answers to these questions when he published his groundbreaking work, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, which was characterized by both misgivings and hopefulness. While appreciating Rookmaaker's invaluable contribution to the study of theology and the arts, this volume—coauthored by an artist and a theologian—responds to his work and offers its own answers to these questions by arguing that there were actually strong religious impulses that positively shaped modern visual art. Instead of affirming a pattern of decline and growing antipathy towards faith, the authors contend that theological engagement and inquiry can be perceived across a wide range of modern art—French, British, German, Dutch, Russian and North American—and through particular works by artists such as Gauguin, Picasso, David Jones, Caspar David Friedrich, van Gogh, Kandinsky, Warhol and many others. This book, the first in IVP Academic's new Studies in Theology and the Arts series, brings together the disciplines of art history and theology and points to the signs of life in modern art in order to help Christians navigate these difficult waters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780830899975
Publisher: IVP Academic
Publication date: 05/23/2016
Series: Studies in Theology and the Arts
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 376
File size: 12 MB
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About the Author

Jonathan A. Anderson (MFA, California State University, Long Beach) is an artist, art critic and associate professor of art at Biola University. He is the coauthor, along with Amos Yong, of Renewing Christian Theology: Systematics for a Global Christianity and a contributor to Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects and Perils.

Table of Contents


Part I: Critical Contexts

1. Introduction: Religion and the Discourse of Modernism

2. H. R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture

Part II: Geographies, Histories and Encounters

3. France, Britain and the Sacramental Image

4. Germany, Holland and Northern Romantic Theology

5. Russian Icons, Dada Liturgies and Rumors of Nihilism

6. North America and the Expressive Image

7. North America in the Age of Mass-Media


Afterword: So What? by Daniel A. Siedell



General Index

Scripture Index

What People are Saying About This

E. John Walford

"As insightful as Hans Rookmaaker's provocative book Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (1970) was in tracing with broad strokes his concern with the cultural demise of Christian values in the post-Enlightenment West, Anderson and Dyrness make probing and illuminating use of the forty-five years of subsequent research to show that the sacred and secular have been far more complexly interwoven than Rookmaaker recognized. The authors, using the same end date, open up a broad spectrum of well-researched and illuminating contextual material that serves as a needed corrective to Rookmaaker's generalized schema and models a multidisciplinary, art-historical and theological approach that is deliberately generous, open and sympathetic rather than confrontational."

Wolfgang W. Müller

"The book impressively demonstrates the potential for theology to occupy itself with the movements of modern art."

Taylor Worley

"Despite his often biting criticism and emphatic rejections of modern art, those who read Hans Rookmaaker closely know that the care and attentiveness he displayed in engaging the art of his day intimated a valuation far beyond mere condemnation. The same spirit of eager and attentive hospitality can be seen in this rejoinder by Bill Dyrness and Jon Anderson. With the studied investment in their diverse subjects and the poignant reflections emerging throughout, they have demonstrated that both Rookmaaker's vocation and burden are live categories for our time. More than a response to the original, Modern Art and the Life of a Culture is an invaluable companion to Rookmaaker and essential reading for any serious Christian encounter with modern art."

Nicholas Wolterstorff

"This is a book we have needed for a long time. The standard story of modern art, told by religious and non-religious people alike, is that it is the art of secularism and pervaded by nihilism. That was the story told by Hans Rookmaaker more than forty years ago in the book that became enormously influential among evangelicals, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. Anderson and Dyrness tell a very different story. They show that modern art has been pervaded by religious concerns and theological issues. What they have dug up is truly amazing; the book is an eye-opener. They frame their story as a response to Rookmaaker. But the story they tell and the interpretations they offer are for everyone. Only those who refuse to read can ever again think of modern art in the old way."

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