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Breaking ResemblanceThe Role of Religious Motifs in Contemporary Art$
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Alena Alexandrova

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823274475

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823274475.001.0001

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Breaking the Religious Image

Breaking the Religious Image

Reinventing Religion in Art

(p.43) Chapter 2 Breaking the Religious Image
Breaking Resemblance
Alena Alexandrova
Fordham University Press

The chapter provides an overview of two tendencies in the transformation of the status of religious motifs in art starting with the painting of Caspar David Friedrich and ending with Expressionism. This period was characterised by a major shift in the mutual positioning of art and religion both institutionally and aesthetically. Church art became an increasingly problematic category at the end of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, partly because the clergy objected to decorating churches with the unusual interpretation of religious iconography associated with modernist aesthetics. Considered from this perspective abstract art appeared as an acceptable alternative precisely as opposed to other images with unusual modernist interpretations. The absence of figurative images removes all controversies as to how religious subjects should be interpreted. Religious iconography had a continued presence within the work of numerous artists in the different movements of the historical avant-gardes. While the figurative references to religious motifs in most of the cases were quite critical in their tone (whether this was intended by the artist or not) and used as tools of criticism of the institutions of art and religion, abstract art became the medium for expression of a positive form of spirituality.

Keywords:   abstract art, church art, Expressionism, Caspar David Friedrich, iconoclasm, religious art, religious iconography, spirituality, Symbolism, Vincent Van Gogh

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