“Art and History are mutually enhancing and belong together. Not only do such portraits help “illustrate” the story at hand, and thereby enlarge our feeling for these particular men and women of history, but our knowing who they were and the part they played, our knowing the history, enlarges immeasurably our response to, and feeling for, such works of art.”
~ David McCullough, author of 1776 and 1776: The Illustrated Version
As I re-read this a second time, I was struck by what a grand truth he was stating. A picture really can be worth a thousand words. I didn’t pay too much attention to details in the well-known “The Battle of Bunker’s Hill” by John Trumbull, showing the death of General Joseph Warren (pictured above). Then as I read the words of John Adams daughter, Abigail – “it is enough to make one’s hair stand on end…the scene, is dreadfully beautiful, or rather dreadfully expressive.” I decided to really look at the picture. It is exactly as Abigail described. It has helped me make the history more alive in my mind and heart. I know that these people indeed gave their all for my freedom.
The same principle applies in using beautiful artwork that expresses our Savior and scenes from scripture. I can feel the Spirit and have a testimony-building experience when observing a well-done piece of artwork depicting scriptural scenes. I do not have the same experience when I see scripture heros depicted as cartoon characters, usually because this brings the spiritual down to a common level – and therefore is not extraordinary. It cheapens the character’s stories – especially if we find ourselves having to explain that cartoon people aren’t real. To a child’s mind, that could mean several things – one, we lied to them – second, the people aren’t real and third, that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are not real. That would be disastrous!
A scripture hero is extraordinary! We want our children to have a high spiritual and moral standard to work toward, so we must expose them to the wonderful artwork that teaches them to adopt the high ideals and nobleness of these men and women who were strong and steadfast. Then our children – the rising generation – will be able to say: “Our knowing who they were and the part they played, our knowing the history, enlarges immeasurably our response to, and feeling for, such works of art – and most importantly – our testimonies of the gospel and of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Seeing the details in the statue of Christ reminds us of the great sacrifice He made, and strengthens my desires to be strong enough to accept His gift. It will do that for a child, too.
In my searches for solid LDS resources with wonderful depictions of the Savior, the Prophets, Scriptural Accounts and LDS Church History, I realized that I already own a perfect resource – the Gospel Art Book (GAB) to begin our LDS Picture Studies. I compiled a list of all the pictures in it to create a Gospel Art Book Picture Study Series.
You can download the list here: Scriptures In Art (GAB Series).
To see the first post in this series, click here.
To see the second post in the series, click here.