Cranleigh Arts Centre
West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
and the English Bible
1611 - 2011
Report of the
lecture given by Professor Michael Wheeler
MA PhD on November 23rd
his jest that it was a big challenge to keep a NADFAS audience awake after
lunch, I think Michael Wheeler succeeded ably with his fascinating romp through
the development of the written word and its association with art. The Bible, he
was later to point out, is the basis of all literature.
After its first translation from Hebrew into Latin by St. Jerome, the Bible was
painstakingly hand copied by monks. They would decorate the margins with
illuminations, so called because the pages glistened when turned, this continued
until in 1475 the Bible went into print.
In 1535 William Tyndale was arrested for secretly printing his own
translation of the Bible into English, taken from both the Greek and Hebrew.
Michael Wheeler pointed out to us how the slightest variation in the translation
of a word could alter the meaning of the text and this was Tyndale's downfall as
his translation was considered politically biased.
1611, ironically using much of Tyndale's work, scholars, instructed byJames I,
had rewritten the Bible to be known as 'The King James Bible'.
After the Restoration of 1660, pictures were introduced to the Bible and by
the end of the 18th century image and word had definitely come together.
William Blake's engravings and Turner's illustrations of 'The Fifth Plague of
Egypt' are fine examples of this time.
we sped on through art history, the text of The Bible was portrayed by artists
in ever increasing expression and style. Artists and art critics, such as
Ruskin, were truly absorbed in ways to translate the Bible and religious
allegory. We looked in detail at the symbolism of Holman Hunt's 'The Hireling
Shepherd' and 'The Light of the World'. David Robert's book 'The Holy Land'
depicting where Our Saviour walked was another delightful example - both Roberts
and Holman Hunt having travelled in the Holy Land extensively.
artists our lecturer suggested were also well worth mentioning were Johann
Overbeck, John Martin and of course, in the 20th Century, Sir Stanley Spencer.
Our guest speaker for November 2011, Professor Michael