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The Foundations of Christian Art Format Kindle
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"One of the most tenacious of typically modern prejudices is the one that sets itself up against the impersonal and objective rules of an art, for fear that they should stifle creative genius. In reality no work exists that is traditional, and therefore 'bound' by changeless principles, which does not give sensible expression to a certain creative joy of the soul; whereas modern individualism has produced, apart from a few works of genius which are nevertheless spiritually barren, all the ugliness— the endless and despairing ugliness— of the forms which permeate the 'ordinary life' of our times." (Kindle Locations 146-150)
In the first essay, “Introduction to the Sacred Art of Christianity,” and the last essay, “The Decadence and the Renewal of Christian Art,” Burckhardt writes of the differing perspectives, and the loss of the sacred in the modern one.
The second essay, “The Role of Illuminated Manuscripts in Christian Art,” introduces the reader to several important manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow, early Northumbrian manuscripts, early Syrian manuscripts, and the Ambrosian Illiad. The author writes of the style of illumination and the cultures these books came from.
The title essay, the longest, is more technical than the others. Burckhardt discusses the art of the icon, architecture, and what these represent; medieval philosophy, mainly from Aristotle, but also from Plato and Boethius; and art of Eastern Orthodoxy. In this essay the author includes specific examples of each art.
As these are essays, and the topics significant, the book is a rather broad overview, far from comprehensive. Aptly, the author’s writing is significant. In writing a review there are many quotations I would have liked to have included. Burckhardt’s words have the weight of someone who knows religion and art, both of which use the language of man’s nature and the timeless.
P.S. In the last essay, “The Decadence and the Renewal of Christian Art,” the author addresses the question of whether Christian art can be renewed or reborn. He makes two separate statements:
"But a renewal of Christian art is not conceivable without an awakening of the contemplative spirit at the heart of Christianity; in the absence of this foundation, every attempt to restore Christian art will fail; it can never be anything but a barren reconstruction." (Kindle Locations 1461-1462)
"Christian art will not be reborn unless it completely frees itself from individualistic relativism, and returns to the sources of its inspiration, which by definition are situated in the 'timeless.'" (Kindle Locations 1497-1498)
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