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Reviewed by:
  • Religious Art in the Nineteenth Century in Europe and America
  • John Dillenberger
Religious Art in the Nineteenth Century in Europe and America. By Thomas Buser. Book 1 and Book 2. [Studies in Art and Religious Interpretation, Volumes 28a and 28b.] (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2002. Pp. xv, 242; iv, 243-566.)

Ordinarily one would start a review by giving attention to the content rather than the organization of the book. But inasmuch as reading it is made easier by being aware of the unity of the segments, let me start with organizational matters. While there are two bound books, the two are really one volume in pagination and in related content, with a rough chronology throughout. Then there is a listing of forty plates after the table of contents in each volume, with the plates themselves bunched together toward the middle of each book. Apparently because of some technical issues, the twelve color plates in each listing do not correspond easily with the listing of the plates. Hence, in Book 1, the color plates which are discussed first, are actually last in the listing of the plates. So, the first plates start with plate 13, while the twelve color plates follow after plate 40. In Book 2, the chronology is correct, but here, too, the color plates have no number. Knowing this arrangement can save time in seeing the unity of text and plates, which the reader would want to explore.

Buser is convinced that religious art is as fully present in nineteenth-century Europe and America as in any other period. In this, he has succeeded. There is hardly an artist of note who does not receive attention, together with literary figures and theologians. Among them are such figures as Ary Scheffer, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Eugene Delacroix, Elihu Vedder, Friedrich Overbeck, John Everett Millais, J. M. W. Turner, John Martin, Caspar David Friedrich, William Holman Hunt, Benjamin West, William Blake, Frederick Edwin Church, George Innes, Fritz von Uhde. He has obviously lived with the figures, for he writes with ease and command about all of them. The footnotes at the end of each book are exceptionally helpful.

While this is a coherent book, it also serves as a kind of dictionary of the period. While I would prefer a fuller theological explication, that is not the book he set out to write and one should not be critical that he did not. The test is, what has one learned from the book. It is a full picture of the variety of art, artists, and [End Page 519] currents of the time, from the orthodox to the liberal, theological and more secular. Given its comprehensiveness, it is a book that I will continue to consult.

John Dillenberger
Graduate Theological Union (Emeritus)
Berkeley, California


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