Church News and Events

BYU Museum of Art Presents “Sacred Gifts”

  By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 12 November 2013

Heinrich Hofmann’s Portrait of Christ, the Savior, 1894; Riverside Church, New York City.  Courtesy BYU Museum of Art.

Three years ago, BYU’s Museum of Art presented The Master’s Hand—a collection of altarpieces from the late Danish artist Carl Bloch that depicted moments from the life of the Savior.

For the museum, The Master’s Hand marked a singular moment. Record crowds viewed the exhibition. Lives were changed as visitors by the thousands recognized the Lord’s hand in their own lives.

Now a new exhibition of Christ-themed artwork arrives at BYU—and curators are hopeful that patrons young and old will once again discover personal connections to the divine through the paintings of a trio of European masters.

Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann, and Frans Schwartz opens November 15.

Sacred Gifts will feature nearly two dozen paintings capturing key episodes from the life of Christ. Most of the paintings have never been displayed in the United States and come to the Church-owned university “under extraordinary circumstances” from churches and museums in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and New York.

A series of etchings from the artists tops off the exhibition.

The exhibition is free of charge, although visitors must reserve a ticket for a specific date and time by visiting moa.byu.edu/sacred-gifts. Sacred Gifts will be on display through May 20, 2014.

Like The Master’s Hand, Sacred Gifts will appeal to a broad audience from both inside and outside the BYU and Latter-day Saint communities.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to see the works of three incredible artists,” the museum’s head curator, Dawn Pheysey, told the Church News.

While rank-and-file visitors might not know the names of the artists, they will certainly recognize many of the works included in the exhibition. They’ve been used in a wide range of Church manuals, magazines, and materials. Prints of several of the paintings can also be found adorning the walls of Church meetinghouses and in countless LDS homes.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by a verse from Doctrine and Covenants 6:10: “Thy gift … is sacred and cometh from above.”

Sister Pheysey said sacred gifts can truly be gleaned throughout the exhibition. The artistic gifts of each painter are evident in their reverent interpretation of the life of Christ. Each painting also represents a gift from one of many churches and museums that allowed BYU to display their priceless artwork.

“And the ultimate gift, of course, is the gift of the Savior.”

The artwork in Sacred Gifts visits many decisive moments from the Lord’s mortal ministry—including the Sermon on the Mount, the healing of the blind man, Christ’s cleansing of the temple, Gethsemane, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.

At the end of the exhibition, visitors will be asked to consider how they too can share “sacred gifts” with others.

Sacred Gifts, added Sister Pheysey, can be best enjoyed and experienced when visitors plan ahead and arrive early. Expect to spend an hour or two inside the gallery. Patrons can also utilize an interactive audiovisual iPad app that includes a guided tour, music, clips from talks by Church leaders, and interactive features for children.

An 8-minute introductory film will also be presented at the beginning of the exhibition.

It is hoped that patrons will come often to Sacred Gifts. The exhibition itself is dynamic. Eight oratory paintings by Bloch will be on view only four at a time. The second four will replace the first four in late February of next year.

The oratory paintings are on loan from the Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark and have never been out of the oratory. Officials at the castle said they have no plans to loan them out again.

“We have extraordinarily given this permission in recognition of the great importance these images have for the people of Utah,” wrote Frederiksborg Castle director Mette Skougaard. “[We] will for this occasion share the unique works with people in another continent who have a special appreciation for the religious works of Bloch.”