"Painting the Word" by John Drury

Painting the Word Christian Pictures and Their Meanings John Drury

Publication date:
08 Feb 2002
Yale University Press
220 pages: 241 x 171mm
30 b-w + 70 color illus.

Christianity is another country, says John Drury, and we need to familiarize ourselves with it in order to understand the universal meaning of its art. In this beautifully written book, Drury, an Anglican priest and theologian, looks at religious paintings through the ages and presents them to us in a fresh way—as works filled with passion, stories, and meaning. They become the poetry of such eternal human concerns as birth, death, sacrifice, love, and moral goodness and failure.

Drury points out the religious meanings in paintings that range from works by Piero della Francesca to those by Velazquez. In each case he views the whole picture—its composition, color, drawing, figures, and even architecture—and shows how it creates a religious image that addresses the spectator as a spiritual human being. Drury also provides a historical context for the works, comparing our perception with the perceptions of, for example, the medieval monarch or the Renaissance merchant who first commissioned the work. He examines how these pictures are able to speak to audiences across time and space, and in the process he allows us to respond to them at a more imaginative, empathetic level.

John Drury is Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.

"A superb book: never has the art of looking been more clearly and pervasively - not explained, but demonstrated."—Sister Wendy Beckett

"Stimulating."—Stephen Prickett, Times Literary Supplement

“Through sensitive analysis of the structure and detail of religious paintings, Drury gives us permission to imagine the spiritual dimension that is their inspiration.”—The Very Reverend Dr John Shepherd, Dean of Perth, Western Australia (writing in The Times)

"John Drury approaches his quest with a great warmth of intellect and his enthusiasm is engaging... a lovely piece of writing."—Christopher Colven, The Art Newspaper

"An informative, inspiring book, the reading of which will make your next visit to your local museum of fine arts a more rewarding experience - visually, emotionally and spiritually."—Franco Mormando, America

"Renaissance art aficionados will want this book as their gallery companion."—Publishers Weekly

"An ambitious book that is magnificently successful. In its lavishly illustrated pages, Drury combines commentary that is both artistic criticism and devotional appreciation, and both of a high order. A companion to keep and return to again and again."—First Things

"Drury offers a guidebook to help the contemporary reader decipher the messages conveyed in Christian art. This well-written art history and art appreciation is a delight to read."—Library Journal