New BYU exhibit featuring artwork by Carl Bloch and others is a dream fulfilled for museum officials

Published: Saturday, July 13 2013 12:00 p.m. MDT

The Brigham Young University Museum of Art will bring eight paintings of the life of Christ by Carl Bloch to Utah from the Frederiksborg Castle near Copenhagen, Denmark, for an upcoming religious art exhibition featuring works by Bloch and other 19th century painters. This photo shows where the paintings are displayed in the castle.

Provided by BYU Museum of Art

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

PROVO — To the right of a spacious lobby filled with paintings of the Nativity and sculptures of biblical figures hangs an iconic painting of a humble carpenter healing a man near a pool called Bethesda.

For Dawn Pheysey, head curator at the BYU Museum of Art, this is where it all began.

In 2010, the BYU Museum of Art hosted more than 306,000 visitors in an exhibit featuring the life of Christ through 19th century Danish artist Carl Bloch's paintings. The exhibit was titled "Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand."

Beginning in November, the BYU Museum of Art will open a new exhibit featuring the works of Carl Bloch and other 19th century painters called "Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann, and Frans Schwartz."

The painting that inspired it all, the BYU-owned "Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda" by Bloch, which was on display in the 2010 exhibit, will be featured in the new collection as well.

BYU obtained the painting, which has become an icon for many Christians, after what Pheysey calls a series of fortuitous events — because becoming the sole proprietor of an original 1883 canvas oil painting is no easy feat.

"It took several hoops in order to get permission to purchase it," Pheysey said.

The transaction acted as a springboard for Pheysey's dream —an exhibition of Bloch and other artists' religious paintings.

"We began going over to Denmark every year and building relationships with people there in the churches," Pheysey said.

That friendship paved the way for what Pheysey called some presumptuous requests — four altar paintings, the centerpiece of many churches in Denmark, and eight paintings from the Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark.

While the process for borrowing paintings from other museums is easy, Pheysey said this was a particularly steep request because both the altarpieces and the paintings from the castle are permanent fixtures.

"And so we ask, and it sinks in for a minute and we tell them about the 306,000 people who came to the last show and how they lined up, and how there were throngs dying to see these works," said museum director Mark Magleby. "And they think, 'We love these works,' but then their altruistic feelings take over and they say, 'We'd like to share them with all of those people.'"

BYU's exhibit in 2010-11, "Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand," featured four of Bloch's altar paintings from churches in Denmark, and the upcoming exhibit, "Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann, and Frans Schwartz," which opens Nov. 15, will feature eight paintings from Bloch's "Life of Christ" series, located in the King's Oratory at the Frederiksborg Castle museum.

Though Bloch's paintings will be featured again, Pheysey said visitors can expect a different show.

"This exhibit is totally new," she said. "This time we were able to borrow all the paintings we were not able to borrow the first time. It's the completion of the exhibit."

And this new exhibit is making history.

"These paintings have never before been out of the oratory since they were installed ... in the 1860s-70s, and they will not be loaned again," castle director Mette Skougaard said in a press release.

Skougaard said the castle's decision to grant BYU's request came as a result of the great importance Bloch's paintings have to the people of Utah.

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