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Art and Illustrations of Bible Characters.

Discussion in 'Children and Youth Ministry' started by Paulomycin, Apr 20, 2021.

How were Bible characters depicted when you were a child?

  1. Mostly realistic paintings

    3 vote(s)
    42.9%
  2. A mix of realism and cartoons

    3 vote(s)
    42.9%
  3. Mostly cartoon-style illustrations

    1 vote(s)
    14.3%
  4. Our church restricted artistic rendering

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Paulomycin

    Paulomycin Well-Known Member

    +369
    United States
    Reformed
    cda754e8919bc2a148b3d5de7eeaf8f3.jpg

    As a child, I started attending Sunday School in the mid-70s (Southern Baptist Convention). At the time, Broadman press was handling the Sunday School materials. Most every depiction of Bible characters (the classroom posters, etc.) were artistically rendered to a very high standard of realism for a children's class. Later on, many of us church kids got the beautifully illustrated Biblearn series of books (see above pic), with breathtaking art that was equivalent to what we would see in the Sunday School material.

    Then. . .during the 90s and into the 2000s it all appeared to decline. Much of what I see now is "cartoon Jesus," equal to or less than the quality of something you'd see in a syndicated newspaper strip, or a "baby's 1st book," type of format. Very lazy.

    My theory is that this decline in artwork helped facilitate and/or encourage an unrealistic perspective of the Bible as history. Children would psychologically "imprint" these cartoon characters into their minds, and then carried them right on into secular adulthood. Just to nail my point home further, there are many atheist and agnostic authors who have published books that are editorial satires of this exact sort of thing. They reflect their perspective on the church they were raised in. One of many examples is the Awkward Moments Children's Bible, by Horus Gilgamesh.

    *cough* I'm not saying this is a direct cause of adult atheism, agnosticism, and "the nones," but I suspect it played a strong role in facilitating it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
  2. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

    +4,228
    United States
    Reformed
    Widowed
    Interesting! I had never given it a full thought, beyond simply noticing the change you describe. I'm thinking you may well be right!
     
  3. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Repartee Animal: Quipping the Saints! Supporter

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    So, do you consider this image to be cartoonish or realistic...? :scratch:

    Their proportions seem very realistic to me. Only the medium (pastels?) seems a little stylish to me, but not to the point of distraction.
     
  4. AubreyM

    AubreyM Active Member

    435
    +163
    United States
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    Private
    Paul, should we go back to Victorian Aged painting? :)
     
  5. Paulomycin

    Paulomycin Well-Known Member

    +369
    United States
    Reformed
    OP edited for clarification.
     
  6. Paulomycin

    Paulomycin Well-Known Member

    +369
    United States
    Reformed
    I would not argue against it.

    If art reflects our society (and by extension, the church), then we are in dire need of a revival.
     
  7. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

    +6,881
    United States
    Oriental Orthodox
    Single
    I kind of doubt it. Because their has been unrealistic Christian art for nearly two millennia. And I got to say, when it comes to iconography Ethiopian iconography is very cartoony. Yet Atheism etc. was not popular their until Marxism invaded that land a few generations back.


    Ethiopian crucixtion.jpg
     
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  8. Paulomycin

    Paulomycin Well-Known Member

    +369
    United States
    Reformed
    I see your point. But has Ethiopian iconography ever had a history of sudden qualitative regression?
     
  9. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

    +6,881
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    Probably not. But there are two radically different philosophies in the view of art between the Christian East and West. In the East (anything not from Western Europe) it is OK for art to not be realistic because it is there to encourage contemplation and not be a realistic portrayal of something. That was also true in the Latin west for a long time, but artists really got into realism in the later Middle ages, and that seemed to stick culturally speaking.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
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  10. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Repartee Animal: Quipping the Saints! Supporter

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    For me, realism is less distracting, as long as it isn't provocative.
    They really emphasized the muscles of His torso, almost like a rudimentary hero figure.
    They made an attempt at His abs, but His thoracic arch is conspicuously missing.
     
  11. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

    +4,228
    United States
    Reformed
    Widowed
    Occurs to me to mention, Music has also gone that way, I think. But it's hard to tell what is cause and what is effect, here.
     
  12. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

    +8,855
    Non-Denom
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    It wasn't restricted to Ethiopia. It happened in the West too, even before Rome fell. That's when the church was really on the rise, yet Christians decided to create non-realistic art even though they were surrounded by realistic art. There was a brief revival of realism with Charlemagne (which was essentially a political statement saying Rome was back) but when his kingdom split, that went away for a few hundred more years.

    The abstraction in those early years was deliberate, since the goal wasn't to remind you of the world, but to take your mind higher than this world.
     
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  13. PloverWing

    PloverWing Episcopalian

    +3,910
    United States
    Anglican
    Married
    crossing_red_sea.jpg The pictures I saw as a child tended to be in this style. "Realistic", as opposed to cartoon-style, but not really realistic, as the people's facial expressions seem all wrong to me.

    I hadn't thought about the move to cartoon-style drawings, and what it might communicate to the children seeing the newer style of art. It is an interesting thing to think about.
     
  14. coffee4u

    coffee4u Well-Known Member

    +2,672
    Australia
    Christian
    Married
    I couldn't really answer the poll since I think I attended Sunday school only twice. My parents were 'Anglican' by name only so I didn't really feel any influence one way or the other.
    The only cartoon that I think is harmful is that of the ark depicted as this tiny boat with animal heads poking out.
    I believe belief in evolution is what killed and is killing Christianity and silly ideas of a tiny boat ark don't help.
     
  15. angelsaroundme

    angelsaroundme Well-Known Member

    +1,090
    United States
    Christian
    Celibate
    It's intriguing to think about. The way things are presented can have an effect on us, even if we don't consciously recognize it. Not sure how much of a role the simplifying of art has had but it could definitely be one of the factors.
     
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