Catholic Perspectives on Art

Here are a couple of lectures from art historian Elizabeth Lev.

Unfortunately, so many art lecture videos online are not well produced. In this case the content is very good, but the audio is only passable, and the images of artworks are poor on the video. I would love to see more videos made with an understanding and care that they will live on for years online — especially when it comes to discussing art and architecture. But I love the historical perspective Lev brings to the study of art. Art history has not always existed, nor did it arise within a vacuum — and it has had a profound influence on the Church.

Here is a better reproduction of the final artwork she discusses:

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1647–52) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

There’s so much more than can and should be said, but these videos can function as kinds of introductions. I don’t know yet what I think of Lev; she seems to know her stuff (though these are not in-depth lectures), she lives in Rome, she has a story.

It is important that we Christians think about art. And I mean really think about it. We should be familiar with what art is today, what it was in the past, how it has functioned in society and history, and what it has meant to the Church. It is interesting just how important art has been within the history of Christianity, and just how trivial it has become today. I believe this has something to do with a turning away from God while still hanging on to religion. This is true for both Protestants and Catholics. Somehow I find it more sad in reference to Catholics. Fortunately, and as I perceive it, there are a number of very good Christian artists today (I don’t really like that term), a growing interest in the arts and in sacred architecture, and an increasingly impassioned younger generation becoming uninterested in the reasons (whatever they were — some kind of 1960’s iconoclasm I suppose) that led previous generations to jettison great and holy art in the Church.


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