Religious art by Carl Bloch featured in BYU's new exhibit 'Sacred Gifts'

Published: Monday, Sept. 23 2013 12:20 p.m. MDT

Heinrich Hofmann's "The Capture of Christ," 1858, Hessisches Landesmuseum , Darmstadt, Germany.

Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey

Editor's note: This article is part of a series for the upcoming BYU Museum of Art exhibit, "The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann and Frans Schwartz," which runs from Nov. 15 to May 10, 2014. For more information, visit sacredgifts.byu.edu.

PROVO — The theme of sacred gifts in the upcoming Brigham Young University Museum of Art exhibit, "Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann, and Frans Schwartz" runs deep for museum guests and officials alike.

This exhibit, slated for a Nov. 15 opening, is a completion of the 2010 exhibit, "Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand." The upcoming exhibit will feature all new art, coming from churches and museums from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and New York.

"Sacred Gifts has a different purpose," said BYU Museum of Art head curator Dawn Pheysey. "As we began looking at the paintings and artists we wanted to include in this exhibition, we realized the art and the message of the exhibition itself was really the result of gifts of many kinds."

From the magnification of the artists' God-given talents to the generous donations making the free exhibit possible, Pheysey said the concept of gifts has been all-encompassing.

Talent of the artists

The three artists featured in the upcoming show, Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann and Frans Schwartz, represent three of the most talented and prolific painters of the 19th century.

Each artist emerged from childhood with an artistic influence and passion one that continued to be fostered and refined in later years.

"They all have the spark from their youth of artistic talent and how they developed that in a time when it was the strongest time to be a painter in an academy," said Ashlee Whitaker, religious art curator for the BYU Museum of Art. "That enabled them to create these marvelous paintings."

Magnification through schooling

"People who are inclined toward art already have what we would say is a God-given gift," said Mark Magleby, director of the BYU Museum of Art. "But they have to amplify and magnify it and that is done through academic training."

In the 19th century, in order to be recognized as a skilled craftsman, aspiring artists such as Bloch, Hofmann or Schwartz had to complete their studies at an academy.

This was a greater commitment than a modern-day university, Pheysey said, as many artists would spend years of their lives refining their skills. Bloch spent several years studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark, before studying abroad in Italy.

Most artists began their formal training around age 15, though some started as young as age 10.

Classes included perspective, geometry, math, history, world history, biblical history and mythology. A well-rounded curriculum aided the artists in the various paintings they were commissioned to do.

Academy students worked from 7 in the morning until well into the night, six days a week. Most of the art they produced was drawings. Paintings came in later, more advanced stages when working with a particular professor.

And an academic training continues to stand the test of time, Magleby said.

"We have visited (cultures with strong academies) and have talked to professors who are a part of the ongoing tradition of academic training. Even though they acknowledge all of the subsequent art movements and the kind of work they want their students to be trained in, they still have a strong academic training basis."

Gift of churches and museums

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