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Lesson Plans

Christian Art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Ann Morgan (agm)
Mon, 11 Mar 1996 21:11:55 +0100

I am a High School teacher in Washington State, and I routinely teach about
Christian Art in my High School 'Introduction to Art' class. I am not a
Christian, and tell the kids that right up front. However, I do feel that
if they are going to be able to understand and appreciate the Western
Tradition in Art, they must have some backround in Christian imagery (and I
tell them that, too). I usually do a brief overview of the New Testament
of the Bible, and then show them the most typical forms of imagery that
relate to the life of Christ and the symbols and conventions that were
typically used. I also talk a little bit about depictions of the saints
and the symbolism that pertains to their portrayal. I have never asked
anyone's permission to do this, and so far I haven't had any problems with
it. Many of the kids who come from Christian homes, particularly the
Catholics, have expressed real gratitude that I covered this aspect of the
religious tradition for them.
When I teach about visual symbols, (in the same course) I show them
the excellent video on Van Eyck's 'The Madonna and Chancellor Rolin', and
contrast it with David Attenborough's 'Crooked Beak of Heaven' video, which
gives them the opportunity to see how visual symbols operate both in
Medieval European (Christian) culture, and among the Pacific Northwest
Coast Indians.
I also must say that I have routinely shown reproductions of female
nudes to my classes. So far I have never had anyone complain! At some
point in the semester, we usually discuss the differences between Art and
Pornography, and the fine line that sometimes exists between the two. I
always explain the reasons why artists draw the human figure in the nude,
and why it is such a strong tradition in Western art. I also use nudes as
a take-off point to discuss how the ideals of feminine beauty have changed
over the centuries, which is a real revelation for some image-conscious
In general the kids take all this in stride. My experience is that if
you feel comfortable presenting nudes, demonstrate a mature attitude and
the expectation that your students will be mature about it, it ceases to be
any big deal. -Ann Morgan

  • Reply: Barbara Bridges: "Re: Christian Art"