Modern Art and the Life of a Culture

by Jonathan A. Anderson

Biola art professor Jonathan Anderson discusses his new book Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism, which he coauthored with theologian William Dyrness. This book received the 2017 Book of the Year Award of Merit in Culture & the Arts from Christianity Today and was named one of the Top Ten books of 2016 by Image journal.

About the Book:
The dominant narratives of modern art history tell of a rift between art and "religion" (namely, Christianity) by which the two became adversaries or simply mutually unintelligible to each other. In this new book, Jonathan Anderson (an art critic) and William Dyrness (a theologian) offer a rereading of the history of modern art by paying closer attention to the religious contexts and the theological concerns that shaped its development—contexts and concerns that have been largely neglected by both scholars and laypeople alike. This rereading produces revised accounts of several of the most important modernist artists—one that sees theology to be of vital concern to interpreting the works of Vincent van Gogh, Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, John Cage, Andy Warhol, and many others—while also challenging the tendency among Christians to follow the declinist narrative of Hans Rookmaaker’s influential book, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (1970). In this new book, the first in IVP Academic's new Studies in Theology and the Arts series, Anderson and Dyrness emphasize the persistence of (religious) life in modern art and argue that the history is much more theologically interesting than it has yet been given credit for.

About the Authors:

Jonathan Anderson is an artist, art critic, and associate professor of art at Biola University, where he has been teaching at Biola University since 2006. He holds an M.F.A. from California State University Long Beach, where he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Drawing & Painting. Professor Anderson has given scholarly presentations at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University (Society for Christian Scholarship in Music) and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art), and he has received research fellowships from the Center for Christian Thought and the Nagel Institute. He has contributed to various books and journals, including Religion and the Arts, Themelios, SEEN, and Christian Scholar's Review.

William Dyrness, professor of theology and culture, joined the Fuller Theological Seminary faculty in 1990 and served as dean of the School of Theology from 1990 to 2000. He teaches courses in theology, culture, and the arts, and was a founding member of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts. Dyrness has over 30 years of teaching experience in the United States, the Philippines, Kenya, and South Korea. He has published work in a variety of fields, including theology and culture, apologetics, theology and art, and global missions. His more recent works include Poetic Theology (2010), A Primer in Christian Worship (2009), the Global Dictionary of Theology (co-edited with Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, 2008), Senses of the Soul: Art and the Visual in Christian Worship (2008), Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: The Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards (2004), Visual Faith (2001), Changing the Mind of Missions with James F. Engel (2000), and The Earth Is God's: A Theology of American Culture (1997). He has also served on the national boards of Christians in the Visual Arts (Wenham, MA), 1999 to 2005, and Development Associates International (Colorado Springs, CO), and is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is currently at work on a major research project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation on the use of visual images in worship in Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim communities. 

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