Religious Art: Yesterday and Today

Religion has been a widely used theme in art for centuries.. While learning about art in the renaissance, I learned that religion was a widely used and popular theme among many of artists. In the very first paragraph in the reading by McKay, it is stated “powerful urban groups such as guilds or religious confraternities commissioned works of art” (McKay 421). This points out that religious groups were big supporters of the arts, specifically art relating to the Bible, and those that commissioned the art were high up in class.

I found it interesting that throughout the early 15th century, art was mainly very religious. “Religious themes appeared I all media- woodcarvings, painted frescoes, stone sculptures, painting.” “A religious picture or statue was intended to spread a particular doctrine, act as a profession of faith, or recall sinners to a moral way of living.” (McKay 421). The majority of these art forms that depicted religion, were used as an educational tool. People in the middle ages believed that art could tell a story and profess beliefs, and perhaps could return sinners to a healthy mindset.

A piece of religious art that I find interesting is The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. The Last Supper was painted in the late fifteenth century, and tells the story of the last supper as told in the gospel of John (13:21). The supper was in Jesus’ final days and it is famous for mainly Jesus’ way of sacrifice and giving the bread and the wine in remembrance of himself. In a christian church one can participate in the holy Eucharist where bread and wine are blessed and distributed. This whole service is based upon Jesus’s words at the last supper.

I looked into art in the 20th and 21st centuries, focusing on more works and artists from a more recent time. I noticed that since the middle ages, religion has become less of a prominent theme in art. One can find many pieces of art that depict religion, especially Christianity, from the middle ages. However, it is quite difficult to find a renowned piece of art or a specific artist from the 20th and 21st centuries that use religion as its maine theme. Over the years, art has developed into more than just a way of telling stories, but into a way to express ideas, color, and most of all creativity.

John P., McKay. A History of Western Society. Volume B. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.



  1. zach2342

    Hi Abby,you did a really good job on this post. I really enjoyed it. I like the idea of how you wrote in a lot of detail how religion was portrayed in art. You may also want to note how geography effected religion in art. Because, a lot of the art in Northern Europe was much more religious than the art in Italy and other Southern European countries. Overall, really good job!

  2. amandagowithit

    Nice post! I thought you made really good points, but why do you think that the religious aspect of art has faded or has it been not as a big topic to paint about anymore?

  3. allie0607

    Hi Abbie 🙂 you mention the use of religion in art and how it was common during specifically the renaissance period and I was wondering, what initially caused the outbreak in using art to portray religious scenarios or ideas? thanks ❤

  4. sangj1n

    Hi Abbie
    Good job! I totally agree with you. There arent many religious art compare to Renaissance period. Perhaps the apperance of Humanism made the religious art faded. I enjoyed reading your post!

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