Major BYU exhibit may give Christendom a new favorite painting, draw 200,000 visitors
“Our original reaction was unanimous: ‘Absolutely not,’ ” said Riverside Church Councilmember Karen McVoy-Stone. “We are not letting these paintings out of our church.”
Eventually, she said church members realized the loan meant a “huge number of people would get to see these works of art” who otherwise wouldn’t.
“Not all churches love their paintings,” Magleby said, “but these churches cherish these paintings.”
The lenders also were swayed to loan their paintings by BYU’s offer to pay to conserve the paintings. That was a particular motivation for the Sankt Jakobs Kirke in Copenhagen, home of Bloch’s “The Resurrection,” said church chairman Ole Erhardt Pagels, explaining that an intruder slashed the painting with a knife in 1975 and church members feared sending it to the United States would destroy it.
Through donors like Roy Christensen, BYU paid about $65,000 for work on “The Resurrection,” Pagels said.
“I saw it for the first time today,” he told the Deseret News Thursday, “and you can’t see (the old damage). We will get the painting back in our church in better condition than it was before.”
Major donors, like Roy and Carol Christensen of Irvine, Calif., help the museum pay for much of the conservation work tied to the exhibit. The museum will give exhibit visitors the opportunity to make small donations to help cover the remaining costs.
Riverside’s McVoy-Stone said her church’s members will gain new appreciation for their four loaned works because BYU has taught the church how to light the paintings for optimum viewing.
For Riverside members, the loan also was an opportunity to learn more about the LDS Church and share their faith with Mormons.
“It’s important to have open dialogue between peoples who have different Christian expression, but the center of our being is Christ,” McVoy-Stone said, “that we believe that Christ is the risen Savior, and we believe that it’s important to do the things Christ asked us.
For Magleby, “Agony’s” power is in its masterful depiction of Christ’s expression.
“Those eyes,” he said. “Those sorrowful eyes. There is a forlorn pain in his eyes. They are unblinking. He has entered into this with eyes wide open about the importance of what He is doing. I never saw that his eyes were open and full of pleading until I saw it in person.”
For BYU’s head curator, Dawn Pheysey, the consoling touch of the angel is soulful.
“It’s the most powerful image I have ever seen of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane,” she said. “Seeing it in person for the first time was the most incredible experience. It just takes your breath away. The embrace by the angel is so tender and so personal and so powerful at the same time.
“The angel is embracing the Savior, giving all the strength he can possibly give to the Savior of the world.”
Pheysey learned of the painting, on loan from the Nørresundby Kirke in Denmark, when a friend showed her an etching of it.
Her feelings about the importance of touch in the painting and of consoling others in life are captured in a video that is part of the app produced for iPads visitors can rent and use as they stroll through the exhibit. The app includes interviews with people around the world, music that fits the paintings and more.
Magleby also appreciates the cool colors Schwartz used, very different from the deep reds of Bloch. He said they “better represent the loneliness of fulfilling the demands of the Atonement and the inconsolable expression on his face.”
The only reason he sees that some Latter-day Saints might not fall in love with the painting is that LDS culture is “very conservative about portraying wings,” he said. “But they are a symbol. No one thinks the Savior has wings though he says, ‘How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.’ It’s that ‘as’ ” that makes it clear it is a symbol.
Pheysey also appreciated the symbolism of the wings.
“Someone who saw it said the wings of the angel envelope the Savior and block out the darkness, even if it’s just for a moment.”
The The journey The exhibit begins with an elegant presentation of Schwartz’s “Agony in the Garden.” It ends with Bloch’s bold “Resurrection of Christ.” “He is victorious,” Magleby said. “The victory is won.” For the visitors from Denmark and New York on Thursday, the effect was striking. “It’s fantastic to see them together,” Pagels said. “You go through those doors,” Riverside’s McVoy-Stone said, “and you walk in and you feel the presence of Jesus. You look at every picture from all three artists and you feel the spirit of Jesus. You feel these men were imbued with the spirit to produce incredible art.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The exhibit begins with an elegant presentation of Schwartz’s “Agony in the Garden.” It ends with Bloch’s bold “Resurrection of Christ.”
“He is victorious,” Magleby said. “The victory is won.”
For the visitors from Denmark and New York on Thursday, the effect was striking.
“It’s fantastic to see them together,” Pagels said.
“You go through those doors,” Riverside’s McVoy-Stone said, “and you walk in and you feel the presence of Jesus. You look at every picture from all three artists and you feel the spirit of Jesus. You feel these men were imbued with the spirit to produce incredible art.”
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