Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU: 'The Master's Hand'
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Even if Church members aren't familiar with the name Carl Heinrich Bloch, once they take one look at the new exhibit housed in the BYU Museum of Art, they will recognize many of his works. The Danish artist Bloch, who lived in the 1800s, is well known today for his artwork used in Church books and materials, and LDS meetinghouses painand temples around the globe.
"These are images people are familiar with," said Dawn Pheysey, curator of religious art for the BYU Museum of Art. "We've all grown up with Carl Bloch images, but to see the real thing, with the texture of the paint rather than the flat surface of a magazine is wonderful. The size is probably the thing people are most surprised with."
After nine years of working with different denominations in Denmark and Sweden, the BYU Museum of Art has put together a collection of Bloch's religious paintings in the exhibit "Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand," an exhibit housed together for the first — and probably last — time.
Included in the exhibit are five of Bloch's eight altar paintings that hang in different churches throughout Denmark and Sweden.
Altar pieces tend to the centerpiece to a church, larger in size and sacred in subject matter due to their placement above the altar where congregants take communion. Because of this, BYU curators tried to create a setting in the exhibit that is similar to where the altar paintings came from.
To view the exhibit, patrons begin in a room where a short film is projected on three walls. The film shares information about Bloch and gives patrons a perspective of the time and surroundings of the artist's life.
A team of five, including professors and students from BYU, traveled to Denmark for ten days prior to the exhibit's opening to prepare the media portions of the exhibit. A time line of important events in the painter's life spreads across the walls, showing patrons the geographical influence shown in the paintings.
"We wanted to capture the essence of being in Denmark," said Brent Barson, graphic design professor at BYU and one of the members of the team that traveled to Denmark. "We went to the churches and captured the setting."
While in Denmark, the group recorded panoramic photos and video clips of surrounding areas throughout the country. Those pieces of media were used in the introduction video as well as in an iPad tour.
For the first time in a BYU exhibit, patrons may rent an iPad to accompany them on a tour. The iPad special features include panoramic views of the outside of the church that houses the specific altar paintings, inside panoramic views of the church and commentary from experts, including BYU's curator Dawn Pheysey.
Portions of talks from General Authorities that relate to the subject of the specific paintings are also included, as well as reflective questions for patrons to think about as they tour the gallery.
The exhibit includes five altar paintings, 11 etchings and 21 other works from around Denmark and Sweden. Many of Bloch's other works are featured throughout the exhibit through photos and video. Twelve of the pieces of art featured — including the altar piece "Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda" and 11 etchings — are owned by the museum.
Also included in the tour are panoramic photos of the Bloch altar pieces the museum was unable to acquire for the exhibit. Some non-religious paintings are on display along with photos and video of many familiar religious paintings that are housed in the king's oratory, or prayer chamber, in the Frederiksburg Castle in Denmark. Bloch spent 14 years painting the king's oratory from 1865-79. None of the 23 paintings from the Frederiksburg Castle are part of the exhibit.
Although the display of Bloch's is smaller in number than many exhibits previously housed at the BYU Museum of Art, the pieces displayed make up for sheer volume, the BYU Museum of Art Director Campbell Gray said.
All of the paintings reflect Bloch's values, Sister Pheysey said.
"Even the other paintings emanate the Spirit," she said. "They are tender, sensitive and show people that are often overlooked in society. They are people who have nothing that are often passed by without notice. He is able to show who they are and give worth to people who sometimes society overlooks. Through this exhibit we can understand where Bloch is coming from and what qualities resonate with us."
Most important, Sister Pheysey said, the exhibit reflects a deep faith in God.
"Bloch felt his religious paintings were his most important and greatest contributions," Sister Pheysey said. "It is powerful to see them all together. ... They just emanate the Spirit in wonderful ways."
The exhibit opened on Nov. 12 and will continue until May 7, 2011. The exhibit is free, but tickets are required to help control crowd size. More than 30,000 tickets have already been reserved, including the 3,600 handed out for opening day. The exhibit is on view on the BYU Museum of Art's main level. To reserve a ticket and for more information visit the website moa.byu.edu.