Art For Easter

This year, I started Holy Week feeling unsettled instead of reflective, so I went hunting for art to celebrate the season. I reached out to friends for recommendations of songs, poems, and visual art. Below are some highlights which made Easter more meaningful for me and my family this year. 

Not all of these are appropriate for young children. When offering the stories of Easter to my kids, I try to keep in mind the gentle way angel children learn of the Lord’s crucifixion–with only an “idea of a tomb” and other gentle images offered with “incomparable care and reverence” (Heaven and Hell 335). 

Visual Art

I love the disciples’ varied expressions in “Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples” by Albert Gustaf Aristides Edelfelt: thoughtful, uncomfortable, annoyed, touched. 

With vibrant colors and strong lines, Rose Datoc Dall captures the breathless joy of the three women in “First News of the Resurrection.”

Henry Ossawa Tanner painted many scenes from the Lord’s life, and it’s hard to find them separately, so happy scrolling.

Peter and John Running to the Tomb of Christ” by Eugene Bernand gets me every time. The expressions on the disciples’ faces, the light, the moment–all wonderful.

J. Kirk Richardson’s paintings are earthy and luminous all at once. “Art Thou a King” is one of my favorites. His picture books, Nativity and This is Jesus, feature paintings of the Lord’s life along with abbreviated Biblical text. 

Music

For some long listening, Handel’s “Messiah” and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Less lengthy but still lovely: Mozart’s “Exsultate Jubilate” and Georg Joseph Vogler’s “Hosianna, David’s Son.”

Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today” sung a capella by the Benedictenes of Mary, Queen of Apostles, is one piece in a beautiful album, Easter at Ephesus.

Lori and John Odhner’s songs are well-loved at my house, and this year we enjoyed the gospel song written by Rev. Jonathan Rose, “When the Gardener Said My Name.”

The Gray Havens are a neat husband-and-wife collaboration. One of their albums, Ghost of a King, feels right for this time of year. My favorites: “This My Soul” and “At Last, the King.” 

If you like country music, I suggest “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Alan Jackson. His gospel album, Precious Memories, is lovely. Brad Paisley’s cover of “In the Garden” is another keeper, as is his duet with Sara Evans in “All Things New.” “Come to Jesus” by Mindy Smith is also worth a listen.

Another excellent song titled “All Things New” comes from Andrew Peterson. He’s produced several albums centered around the Easter season. I like his clean, conversational sound.

Poetry

George Herbert’s “Prayer (I)” looks old-fashioned on the page but absolutely sings when read aloud.

Malcolm Guite’s “Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross” reminds me of the deep love present during the horrific scene. (You’ll have to scroll down to number XI, although others in there are certainly worthwhile.) “Easter Dawn” is also wonderful. 

In “Good Friday,” Christina Rossetti links together some beautiful allusions to speak to those of us feeling hard-hearted this season. 

Paul Lawrence Dunber’s “An Easter Ode,” brings me to that uncomfortable place in which almost all is lost and the only things left are prophecy and hope.

John Updike’s “Seven Stanzas at Easter” challenged me and made me smile.

I’ll finish with two poems from New Church poets:

“Ecce Homo”
By Coleman Glenn

Behold the Man whose head is crowned
With thorny branches twisted round
By hands that bear the stain of sin.
The multitudes are pressing in
And cries of “crucify!” resound.

Like seed sprung up in thorny ground
The loud “hosannas” have been drowned.
Through all the frenzy and the din,
Behold the Man.

Behold Him now condemned and bound.
Behold Him. Hear the hammers pound.
Behold, as well, the soldier’s grin.
Behold a mirror. Look within
And face whatever there is found.
Behold the Man.

“When Angels”
By Janna King

When angels,
those past bright women
and men failed 
to trust that dusk
precedes morning,

Failed to feel safe 
in their graceful lives,

Failed to tell easily
what is beautiful
and what is less,

What could one that held them all 
in His concern
do, but come

And be true in the Jordan,
True on the sea,
True speaking on the mountain,

Saying, I give you beauty descending
in the foothills, onto the plains,
And everything else 
is that which falls away.

I hope some of these pieces help you celebrate next year. What art have you found that enriches your celebration of Easter season?

2 thoughts on “Art For Easter

  1. Elsie Anna Wood is a favorite of mine. She was from England, but she lived in Egypt for a time and made journeys to the Holy Land. She was meticulous in her research before she would paint. I pretty much love all her paintings, but I was struck by the one of the Lord praying in the garden of Gethsemane. According to sacredartpilgrim.com/schools/view/43, “Wood stayed at a guest house in an Eastern Orthodox convent in the Garden of Gethsemane and went out at night into the olive groves to make sketches of the shadow and color effects of light filtering through the trees. She wanted to give as accurate a rendering as possible of the full moon of the Passover season in her illustration of Christ praying in the garden.” I can’t seem to make a link to it, but I can send photos by email if anyone is interested. She did paintings of the Lord’s whole life. There’s a lovely one of Him at age 12 looking down on Nazareth from a hilltop which she did after visiting the hilltop herself.

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