"The Master's Hand: The Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch," by Dawn C. Pheysey and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Deseret Book, 2010, 176 pages, $32.99
BYU's recent display of the art of Carl Heinrich Bloch was a major effort on the part of the museum and its curator of religious art, Dawn Pheysey. Some of the pictures needed to be obtained from overseas, sometimes from private collectors. But the project was considered important enough to keep Pheysey pushing for this exhibit. This volume, a commemoration not just of Bloch's inspirational work but of the historic display of so many of his works at BYU, presents to the public a spectacular collection of Bloch's most important works.
The book opens with an extended biography of the artist. The fluid prose and accompanying illustrations take the reader through the life of Bloch, sharing his joys and sorrows, and the fulfillment he discovered in his artwork. We are taken through Bloch's story, up until his death in 1890. His work often reflects his struggles, but also shows his passion for his work. Indeed, the LDS Church has used his artwork in publications in the past; these instances are mentioned and illustrated in an introductory note.
The format is very interesting. We first see a reproduction of the Bloch painting, along with its pedigree and where it is currently being displayed. We then get a citation from scripture enlarging on the work, a meditation on the scene depicted and a photo of the building where the artwork currently resides. What a treat to see these museums and houses of worship from around the world!
There is so much in this book that delights the eye and stimulates the mind. How wonderful to have this volume.
Bloch's transition to etching in his final years is likewise documented. In some ways, the etchings come alive more clearly than the paintings in their stark clarity and their narrative depth. I found myself staring at the etchings, looking for some deeper meaning, and was often rewarded with a new focus and a renewed commitment to appreciating this great talent. I'm not an art expert, but I know what I like. And this, quite frankly, is a book to be treasured, one to keep and to be enjoyed by many generations. Children and adults alike will delight in this gorgeous collection, and it will provide many hours of quality time with your children as they study the paintings and ask about the scenes.
For information on the museum exhibit, see carlbloch.byu.edu.