Melvyn Bragg is to present Faith In The Frame, a new ITV 10-part part series of discussions on the religious themes and relevance of ten of the world’s most fascinating religious pictures.
Each week a panel drawn from writers, art historians, and religious experts and religious figures will discuss the subject matter, artistic value and social history of each of the paintings, as well as why the paintings are still relevant today.
Melvyn Bragg says: “I think this is a lively way to discuss themes – light and dark – which have been described by great artists inspired by Christian stories and faith”.
In this series, Faith In The Frame concentrates on the Western history of art, with each episode discussing one painting.
Programme One: The Resurrection, Cookham – Stanley Spencer: This is a highly individual vision of Heaven on earth, painted between 1924-27, and set in Stanley’s local Cookham churchyard where he had played when young, the perfect English idyll.
Panellists: Howard Jacobson – novelist; Tim Marlow – writer and broadcaster; and Richard Harries – former bishop of Oxford.
Programme Two: The Crucifixion in The Isenheim Altarpiece – Matthias Grunewald: The altarpiece was painted in Germany in 1515, for the Order of Saint Anthony, who tended those afflicted with leprosy. Undiscovered for 400 years, in the 20th century it came to be seen as one of the greatest masterpieces of Christian art.
On display at the Musee d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France.
Pannelists: Sarah Dunant – novelist and broadcaster; Jackie Wullschlager – art critic for the Financial Times; and Rowan Williams – Archbishop of Canterbury.
Programme Three: The Wenhaston Doom Paintings – Anon: The Wenhaston Doom is a painting nestled on a wall in St Peter’s Church in Wenhaston, Suffolk. It is thought to have been produced in the late 15th century. Around 1547, in response to an edict from the protestant King Edward VI, the Doom was whitewashed over. It stayed in the church, preserved and concealed, during refurbishment in Victorian times, its oak planks were left in the churchyard but, overnight, heavy rain washed away the whitewash and heavenly faces started to shine through…
On display at St Peter’s Church, Wenhaston, Suffolk, UK.
Pannelists: Andrew Graham-Dixon – art expert, broadcaster and writer; Eamon Duffy – Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University; and Antony Sutch – Franciscan monk and broadcaster.
Programme Four: The Garden of Earthly Delights – Hieronymous Bosch: This 16th century triptych painting by the Dutch master is one of the most influential religious paintings of all time, yet to this day no-one can agree on the meaning behind its fantastical and surprisingly modern-looking imagery.
On display at the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Panellists: Michael Berkeley – composer and broadcaster; Antony Sutch – Franciscan monk and broadcaster; and Ekow Eshun – Artistic Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Programme Five: The White Crucifixion – Marc Chagall: Chagall painted the White Crucifixion in 1938 after he had travelled through Europe and witnessed the rise of Nazi brutality towards Jews. It is arguably his most controversial and greatest masterpiece.
On display at the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.
Panellists: Richard Harries – former bishop of Oxford; Howard Jacobson – novelist; and Jackie Wullschlager – art critic for the Financial Times.
Programme Six: The Upper Room – Chris Ofili: This is an installation of 13 paintings of rhesus macaque monkeys by the British artist Chris Ofili in 2002. The title – an allusion to the Last Supper – invites us to think about the work religiously but it is the space, the light and the design of the installation which has brought the comparison to religious art.
Not on display.
Panellists: Tim Marlow – writer and broadcaster; Ekow Eshun – Artistic Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts; and Professor of Art at the University of Wales John Harvey.
Programme Seven: The Arezzo Frescoes, Legend of the True Cross – Piero Della Francesca: The whole cycle illustrates a fanciful medieval narrative, a theory of Christianity that traces the wood of the cross from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden through episodes of the Old and New Testaments. One of Piero’s most ambitious schemes and a story of remarkable survival.
On display at Arrezzo, Tuscany, Italy.
Panellists: Jonathan Jones – art critic for The Guardian; Martin Kemp – Professor of Art History at Oxford University; and Andrew Graham-Dixon – art expert, broadcaster and writer.
Programme Eight: The Mystic Nativity – Sandro Botticelli: Botticelli painted The Mystic Nativity in 1500 when he was already a great and successful Italian Renaissance painter, yet here he abandons many of his Renaissance techniques. This mysterious painting and its hidden message offers us a fascinating insight into Botticelli’s day.
On display at the National Gallery, London, UK.
Panellists: Jonathan Jones – art critic for The Guardian; Sarah Dunant – novelist and broadcaster; and Richard Harries – former bishop of Oxford.
Programme Nine: Lux Eterna – Anna Marie Pacheco: An ambitious triptych re-telling the story of the Temptation of Saint Anthony, by the Brazilian artist, painted in 1995, while she was artist in residence at the National Gallery.
Not on display – private ownership.
Panellists: Antony Sutch – Franciscan monk and broadcaster; Jonathan Jones – art critic for The Guardian; and Imtiaz Dharker – poet and artist.
Programme Ten: The Massacre of the Innocents – Pieter Bruegal: Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents is an excellent example of his practice of painting biblical scenes within his own contemporary context of the Netherlands in the 16th century. At first glance it looks like a traditional snowy landscape – it’s only after a longer look that you notice the terrible massacre taking place.
On display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.
Panellists: Rowan Williams – Archbishop of Canterbury; Andrew Graham-Dixon – art expert, broadcaster and writer; and Joanna Woodall – expert on Northern Renaissance art at The Courtauld Institute.