The field of 'art and religion' is fast becoming one of the most dynamic areas of religious studies. Uniquely, "The Art of the Sacred" explores the relationship between religion and the visual arts - and vice versa - within Christianity and other major religious traditions. It identifies and describes the main historical, theological, sociological and aesthetic dimensions of 'religious' art, with particular attention to 'popular' as well as 'high' culture, and within societies of the developing world. It also attempts to locate, and predict, the forms and functions of such art in a changing contemporary context of obligation, modernity, secularism and fundamentalism. The author concentrates on four chief dimensions where religious art and religious belief converge: the iconographic; the didactic; the institutional; and the aesthetic. This clear, well-organised and imaginative treatment of the subject should prove especially attractive to students of religion and visual culture, as well as to artists and art historians.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'It is sometimes said these days that art galleries are the new cathedrals, or that art is the last refuge of the sacred in our society. In this very lively and accessible book, Graham Howes explores the sense in which this might be true, and the sense in which it leaves the most important questions unanswered. He takes us with sympathy and skill through a number of case studies tracing the interweaving of creativity with patronage and wider cultural trends, and offers a fresh and challenging account of why neither religion not visual art can finally rest in the assumption that the abstract is the ideal. The Art of the Sacred makes a genuinely new contribution to a vital debate.' Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury An eminently sensible, persuasive and authoritative reflection that will inform specialist and lay readers alike. - David Morgan, Duesenberg Professor of Christianity and the Arts, Valparaiso University Fascinating...The Art of the Sacred should not be missed by anyone who wants to explore the topic intelligently, or get a real sense of the importance of the issues. - Frank Burch Brown, Frederick Doyle Kershner Professor of Religion and the Arts, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis 'John Ruskin threw down the gauntlet in Modern Painters, a hundred and fifty years ago: "How far [has] Fine Art, in all or any ages of the world, been conducive to the religious life". Using this famous challenge as his starting point, Graham Howes takes us on a multidisciplinary journey through the changing relationship between aesthetic and religious experience mainly in the Western Church tradition - though with applications beyond - from historical, art historical and sociological perspectives, and with the eye of a trained artist. He writes about a very complex web of ideas in a refreshingly clear and no-nonsense way. Moreover, his selection of illustrative case-studies (among them the mid-Victorians, the clerical patronage of Walter Hussey, the work of Matisse and Rothko, Viola and Gormley, and - for me the most fascinating - the public's reaction to the Seeing Salvation exhibition at London's National Gallery in 2000) is both imaginative and apt. I will treasure for a long time his demolition of fashionable assertions about 'the church as heritage centre'. The Art of the Sacred is an excellent introduction to a surprisingly timely subject.' - Sir Christopher Frayling, Rector, Royal College of Art, LondonART AND CHRISTIANITY