We’re so fortunate to have a 2,000-year treasury of Christian art, and it would be a shame not to share it with our students, wouldn’t it? Art can point us towards a deeper understanding of Scripture or the life stories of the saints; it can move us emotionally in a way that words sometimes do not. You can pique kids’ curiosity and draw them into the story by sharing images with them.
Online, there are some terrific databases of images you can use in your class. Three of my favorites are:
- Biblical Art on the WWW – searchable by topic, person, etc. Really cool set of images and links to images elsewhere
- Olga’s Gallery – very comprehensive collection of images, often with annotation that can be helpful if you’re not familiar with the work or the artist
- Web Gallery of Art – another very comprehensive collection, with links to the sites where the images are hosted.
While online sources are fabulous when you’re looking for a specific work of art, having books to flip through can give you a broader view of the life of a given saint or figure as portrayed in art. That’s why I absolutely love the Getty’s Guide to Imagery Series. I’ve reviewed two volumes of the series so far for Tiber River – Old Testament Figures in Art and Saints in Art. From the reviews:
With its many notes as to recurring themes and connections to the New Testament, this would be terrific to have on hand for a Scripture class at any level, as it provides beautiful art to supplement a lecture or to examine in its own right. Each image is reproduced in full color and is grouped with similar pieces based on their correspondence to a particular event or figure in the Old Testament. Significant events in salvation history are presented in approximate chronological order, with notes as to the geographic location, relative time of their occurrence, Scriptural references, and the region where a particular image or event was most popular.
For example, the story of Abraham’s encounter with the king and priest Melchizedek is represented by two paintings, each with notes about the event prefiguring the Last Supper. The section on this event includes an explanation of the circumstances leading up to Abraham’s meeting Melchizedek, and points out that Salem is the ancient name for the city of Jerusalem. Each painting has multiple notes that point out significant figures and techniques used by the artist to create the work.
Read more about Old Testament Figures in Art at Tiber River
The images collected in Saints in Art are not intended to act as a hall of fame for the most widely venerated saints throughout the world, but rather serve to show us the symbols and stories associated with various aspects of Christian history. Each image is shown in full and vivid color, with notes around its perimeter that identify significant parts of the scene. We learn to look more closely at these works of art and to understand that there is meaning to every small detail, and to enjoy “decoding” similar images.
For religious educators, this book would be a great resource for discovering new and unusual facts about saints, and for sharing with students to help them remember what made each saint unique. Some graphic scenes of martyrdom and occasional nudity would mean that this isn’t a book you’d leave around for kids to page through, but there are many, many images that could be appreciated by even the youngest art aficionado. I think it’s great to use visuals like these in teaching and learning about our faith, because we can come to better appreciate beauty as well as having another way to remember important events in the life of a saint we’re studying.
Read more about Saints in Art at Tiber River.
It seems like they’re always coming out with new volumes in this series, and I can’t wait to add some of the other titles to my collection. I highly recommend that you check them out, too.
I wrote these reviews of Old Testament Figures in Art and Saints in Art for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.
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