It is tough enough for artists to capture on canvas the essence of a man they consider to be a Savior who lived in a faraway land some 2,000 years ago.
Add to that the goal of depicting the love for all humanity they believe that man exuded, and the task seems nearly insurmountable.
See the paintings
“No Greater Love,” an exhibit featuring great works of art about Jesus Christ’s life and ministry, including pieces by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn, is on display through October 2014 at the LDS Church History Museum, 45 N. West Temple, Salt Lake City.
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To see more photos from the “No Greater Love” exhibit, go to www.sltrib.com.
Still, Jesus Christ has had an irresistible allure as a subject for painters, sculptors and graphic artists through the ages.
So when Mormon curator Angela Fisher sorted through the LDS Church History Museum’s massive collection of oils and prints, she was overwhelmed by the feelings the art evoked — compassion, agony, sorrow, joy.
Now Fisher has assembled 21 works — including five etchings by famed Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn that will rotate every three months — into a free exhibit titled "No Greater Love."
The display will continue through October 2014 in the museum’s theatre gallery in downtown Salt Lake City.
Artists draw upon various styles to express their views of Jesus — from realistic forms and landscapes to more contemporary figures.
For instance, Russian graphic artist Yuri Mogilevsky, an LDS convert, turns to stick figures and simple lines to depict Christ carrying his cross.
"It is simple but powerful," Fisher says. "We wanted to include artistic voices that might be different than what [Mormons] are used to seeing."
A work by Ronald Roberts Richmond shows a long, wooden table that appears to be empty. In its shadows, you can barely make out the silhouette of a goblet and plate, signifying Christ’s Last Supper. Behind the table is a wooden chair, with a white cloth thrown over it, possibly representing the burial shroud that covered Jesus’ body and was left in the tomb.
"There is so much Christian symbolism in it," Fisher says.
The two pieces at the exhibit’s end provide an international perspective.
One bas-relief shows hands reaching out to a Christ figure in the middle. Around the edges is Cyrillic lettering, which says, "The nations yearn."
"It was done in 1990," Fisher says, "and was meant to depict Mormons in the Eastern bloc countries."
The final work, "Coming of Christ" by Colleen Wallace, uses Australian aboriginal symbols to express a hope in Jesus.
At the center rests a large ball of light, with horseshoe symbols facing it, and healing plants in each corner.
"We hope the exhibit helps viewers delve deeper into the meaning of Christ’s love," Fisher says. "This is not just for Mormons, but for everyone."
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