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E. John Walford

The Lost Art of Attentive Viewing

E. John Walford

Living amidst a high-tech culture, surrounded by digitally replicated images, ironically we have lost the ability to be attentive viewers of traditional paintings. Though today we have the ability to see more—just at the click of a mouse—we actually perceive less. Christians, as it turns out, have the most to lose, because the visual art of past centuries carries in potent form a substantial legacy of Christian beliefs and values. Loss of meaningful access to this rich heritage is yet another way of choking off the voice and witness of Christian wisdom within the wider culture. What is perhaps equally lamentable is that most Christians will scarcely notice this form of cultural demise be cause they themselves have long since lost interest in these visual treasures of their own heritage. Indeed, are not modern Christians known as people of the word?

If any written words might persuade such Christians—and others—to also look beyond words, then John Drury's illuminating and persuasively illustrated Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and their Meanings is a strong candidate for that task. Drury makes a compelling case for the need to learn how to engage the Christian art of the past, and, in so doing, succeeds in captivating the attention of the reader/viewer as he leads us deeper into the images he illustrates and discusses. His vividly illustrated text is therefore a model of what it advocates: the cultivation of careful viewing skills and the rewards this brings, when applied to Christian art. It can enlarge our understanding of the central themes of Christian belief and, in so doing, motivate our actions.

The Incarnation and The Artist: The Word Made Flesh

Given the propensity of modernists—and most of all Christian modernists—to trust words and view images as deceiving, many may be skeptical that much is to be gained by attending to images. Some years ago, Margaret R. Miles, in her book Image as Insight: Visual Understanding in Western ...

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