Christian Themes in Art

Christian Themes in Art (Gresham College). An illustrated series of lectures that investigate how Christian themes have been understood and interpreted by different artists down the centuries. The series highlights the distinctive theological insights of different eras and how these are related to changing artistic styles.

Professor the Rt Revd Lord Harries was the Bishop of Oxford from 1987 to 2006. He was previously the Dean of King's College London, where he is now a Fellow and an Honorary Professor of Theology. (from

Image: Christian Themes in Art

The First Christian Art and its Early Developments
The earliest surviving Christian art is in the catacombs in Rome. This lecture will look at how this developed, survived two centuries of iconoclasm and established itself with a distinctive rationale.

Jesus in Art
Early Christian carvings depict Jesus as a beardless Roman youth. Yet the image with which we are familiar is very different. This lecture will explore the dominant imagery associated with Jesus in different ages and cultures.

The Nativity in Art
This is one of the richest themes in art, showing an amazing development of associated ideas and images right up to the 21st century.

The Passion in Art
There are no surviving depictions of Jesus on the cross in the catacombs, but by the middle ages it had become the definitive and defining image of Christianity. Yet there have been, and continue to be, major shifts in what this image has been trying to convey.

The Resurrection in Art
This is the most difficult of all Christian themes to convey in visible form and the early church approached it with proper reticence. Whilst the Western Church developed an over-literalistic image, the Orthodox Church gave it a powerful symbolic rendering.

Understanding Faith through the Eyes of Stanley Spencer
The reputation of Stanley Spencer continues to grow. All his life he painted Christian themes with his fresh and distinctive vision. For him art was the product not so much of talent as love, and this love enables us to see everything as it truly is, newly risen to life.

Related Links
The Art of Eternity
This is a BBC documentary series presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, about early Christian art from the third century AD to the early years of the fourteenth century.
Christian Faith and Modern Art
The last century has seen changes in artistic style that have been both rapid and radical. This has presented a particular problem to artists who have wished to express Christian themes.
Baroque! From St Peter's to St Paul's
This is a BBC documentary series presented by Waldemar Januszczak, exploring the painting, sculpture and architecture of the Baroque period.
Art of the Western World
This is a documentary series presented by Michael Wood, exploring magnificent masterpieces of the Western world in their cultural and historical settings.
Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark
This is a BBC documentary series written and presented by Kenneth Clark, outlining the history of Western art, architecture, and philosophy since the Dark Ages.