Here He is, the conventional Jesus Meek and Mild. On top is the Protestant version I was raised with. Below is the Catholic version.
Like so many conventional things that we accept as ancient and eternal verities, these image types began in the 19th century. This is the image of Christ remade to accommodate modern bourgeois sensibilities; long on sentiment, short on challenge or complication.
Where did this image come from and why?
Why does the Christian religion, whose imagery dominated and drove Western art for centuries, seem to suddenly drop off the radar by the mid 18th century, never to appear again?
Why does Christianity (at least in its organized sectarian form) play so small a role in modern and post-modern art?
These are questions that have pre-occupied me for a long time.
I'm usually in demand to talk about Early Christian and Medieval art, as well as the Renaissance in religious terms; the Baroque, a little less, unless it's Rembrandt (though he was not above Baroque razzle dazzle when it suited his purposes). Anything beyond the 17th century is usually confined to the PreRaphaelites or Georges Rouault. I want to expand that discussion further and bring in artists like David, Goya, Turner, Friedrich, Van Gogh, Picasso, Beckmann, Pollock, Rothko, and Warhol into it.
I've decided to spend some time in this space meditating on these questions. I don't quite know where I'll be going with this, or where I will end up, and I'm still figuring out all the image posting options, but let's see what happens.