Inspired strokes bring life to Christ

By Seth Saunders

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 24 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

"Christ and the Rich Young Ruler," by Heinrich Hofmann

LDS Church

Most people have heard the expression "a picture is worth a thousand words." There have been many talented and gifted artists who have accepted the sacred task of bringing Jesus Christ to life through their works. Through their inspired works, many have changed their lives, increased their faith and deepened their love for Christ.

During this time of focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, many take the time to reflect on his life. For many, that reflection comes through viewing and pondering paintings of Christ. Our collective gratitude goes to each of those who have used their talent to represent the Savior of the world. Here is a small collection of paintings that are well-known throughout the world.

Del Parson, commissioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, completed his piece titled "Christ in Red Robe," or also known as "Jesus the Christ," in 1983. This specific painting has become one of the most popular paintings of the Savior within the LDS Church.

In this depiction, we see a reflection of Christ that is inspiring. As you stare into the eyes of the Savior in this picture, it is hard not to feel his immense love for you. Parson has said, "When you feel inspired, a painting takes on a life of its own. When that happens, the experience is pure joy."

In what some have called the saddest moment in the Bible, when Christ is rejected right before his crucifixion, Heinrich Hofmann catches the essence in his work “Christ and the Rich Young Ruler." Although this painting was completed in 1889, it has stood the test of time and become a very powerful piece for many around the world.

Hofmann firmly believed that if one did not have the ability to reach into their deepest soul while working on a religious piece, they were not capable of completing such work properly. In each of his pieces that include Christ, it is evident that he found that part of his soul.

There is no shortage of paintings depicting the Last Supper, and it is amazing how each one has the ability to share the essence of that important event. In 1949, Walter Rane produced his version known as "In Remembrance of Me." With this being such a sacred moment for the Savior as well as the apostles, Rane's ability to allow you to almost be there in the room is inspiring.

As you look at the faces of the apostles, you can almost see a story within each one. There seems to be joy for some, concern for others. You can almost ask the question, "Which one represents me?" As he teaches, he is looking not only into the eyes of the apostles, but into their souls as well.

Carl Heinrich Bloch established himself as a great painter and because of that was commissioned to do a variety of projects. One of those was to create a number of paintings depicting the life of Jesus.

In one of his most famous pieces, titled "Christ the Consolator," Bloch created a masterpiece that for many has brought the peace and comfort that we are taught Christ can bring into our lives. There is detail in this picture that proves that those who take on the sacred work of painting the Savior are blessed with gifts and talents from above.

There are numerous aspects of this painting that draw one's attention, but the outstretched arms of the Savior are as if he is ready to provide that hug of comfort that many of us need during the trials in our life.

When a painting has the ability to give you chills when you first see it, you know that a gem has been found. Liz Lemon Swindle has found the ability to portray the life of Christ in a unique and powerful way. There is something so real about her piece from 2005 called "Come Unto Me."

As we are taught often in the Holy Bible, we are invited to follow the Savior. As we do, there are blessings that will enter our lives. For Christians around the world, the effort it takes to follow Christ is often difficult. In a world that promotes so much noise, a picture such as this can help remind us of the importance of knowing that he is there, and he always will be as we strive to truly go to him. Swindle captures the title "Come Unto Me" with precision and power.

Each of these pieces can help us reflect upon he who saved all. As one takes time to really study these paintings, there can come a feeling of peace, joy, reflection and love. There always seems to be some type of invitation that comes from paintings of the Savior, and that invitation can be different for each person.

With open hearts, people's lives can be filled with the blessings that come from following the example the Jesus Christ has set. Seeing paintings of him can set that process in motion.

Seth Saunders is president of the Pembroke Branch (Spanish) and a founding board member of the Pink Shoe Hero Foundation. He has been married 15 years to his wife Amber and is the father of three sons.

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