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Conference attendees get sneak peek at BYU's 'Sacred Gifts' exhibit

360-degree panoramas show paintings in their original settings

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24 2013 12:57 p.m. MDT

Frans Schwartz's Frans Schwartz's "Agony in the Garden," an oil on canvas painting. (Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art)

PROVO — Participants at BYU's Campus Education Week in August received a sneak peek of the upcoming "Sacred Gifts" exhibit at the university's Museum of Art.

The two-hour presentation — "Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann and Frans Schwartz" — introduced the audience to the artists behind the paintings that will be on display Nov. 15 through May 10, 2014.

Ann E. Lambson, the museum's head of education, and Dawn C. Pheysey, curator of religious art, began the session by introducing the three artists.

The works of both the Danish Bloch and German Hofmann have often been used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its magazines and other publications. Currently, the church is using Hofmann's "Portrait of Christ" — one of the paintings displayed — as its profile picture on both its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Heinrich Hofmann's Heinrich Hofmann's "The Capture of Christ," 1858, Hessisches Landesmuseum , Darmstadt, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey)

However, Schwartz may not be as well-known to the LDS community.

"You might wonder why we’ve included Frans Swartz in this exhibition. The church uses Carl Bloch and Heinrich Hoffman all the time, but they’ve never used Frans Schwartz," Pheysey said. "We wanted to introduce a new artist to our public and the church in hopes that perhaps they might find use for his work as well."

Schwartz's "Agony in the Garden" will be the first painting participants will see as they enter the gallery.

"When we first saw this painting, it just blows your mind," Pheysey said. "It is the most powerful image of Christ in Gethsemane being strengthened by the angel. There’s something about the angel and the embrace and the Savior. We think and we hope that it will become one of the most important paintings in the exhibition."

Karen Thomas of the Thomas Conservation Lab in New York City does touch-up on a painting.
 (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey) Karen Thomas of the Thomas Conservation Lab in New York City does touch-up on a painting. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey)

The exhibit will be the second that the museum has created featuring Bloch, with the first in 2010. "Carl Bloch, A Master's Hand" brought more than 300,000 people to the BYU museum throughout its six-month installment.

Like the 2010 exhibit, "Sacred Gifts" will not display the paintings in the typical museum frame. Rather, makeshift altars will be built around each painting to reflect the their permanent homes in chapels across Europe. All of the paintings were loaned to BYU's museum by local parishes across Europe and the Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark.

"It is such of gift from them to give us the focal point of their church and to allow us to borrow it," Pheysey said. "It’s hard to imagine what a gift it is.”

Charlottenborg Castle, Copenhagen (Home of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts) where Carl Bloch and Frans Schwartz studied.
 (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey) Charlottenborg Castle, Copenhagen (Home of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts) where Carl Bloch and Frans Schwartz studied. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey)

According to Pheysey, the Museum of Art staff has spent 12 years building relationships with European churches, pastors and the staff of Frederiksborg Castle to create both exhibits.

Lambsom said BYU built altar displays for the paintings in both exhibits because how the painting is framed and its surroundings can impact how the painting is viewed.

"A lot of times this is how we see reproductions of paintings," Lambson said, pointing to a cropped reproduction of a painting. "Though a beautiful painting and reproduction, it’s quite different than seeing it in place, in context where it has this beautiful architectural surrounding."

To show the original surroundings of the painting, Lambson said the museum partnered with virtual reality photographer Han Nyberg to create interactive 360-degree panoramas of several of the paintings in their original settings. The panoramas can be found at 360-foto.dk/carlbloch.

“Life of Christ” paintings by Carl Bloch adorn the King’s Oratory in Frederiksborg Castle.
 (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey) “Life of Christ” paintings by Carl Bloch adorn the King’s Oratory in Frederiksborg Castle. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Pheysey)

Pheysey recommended attending the exhibit near its opening. Toward the end of the Carl Bloch exhibition in 2011, Pheysey said crowds flooded the gallery floor and, while it was wonderful to have so many people attend, the crowds may have hindered individual experiences.

“The experience was not as great as it could have been if you had been there when there were fewer people in attendance,” she said.

While the exhibit is free, tickets are required for entry. Tickets can be reserved online starting in October.

Katie Harmer is a journalism graduate of Brigham Young University and writes for Mormon Times. Email: kharmer@deseretnews.com Twitter: harmerk

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