Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Christian Art Worldwide by Laurel Gasque

The Annunciation, door carving by Bandele of Osi-Ilorin, 1964.

Here's a great article from 1995 by Laurel Gasque about nonwestern Christian visual art (at least at that time).  In it she gives a good overview of the shift of Christiandom from the west to the east, and how this is reflected in a growing body of Christian visual arts from around the globe.

One especially helpful insight is the paragraph in which she mentions Nathan Corbitt's four classifications of contemporary Christian art, based on its purpose: liturgical art, functional art, profes­sional art and mission art.  Gasque writes, "Knowing the intent of the artist and the function (i.e., action) of a particular work of art aids us con­siderably in accounting for its form and content, even at times its qual­ity."  These four categories are helpful also when analyzing indigenous visual art forms, in order to determine their possible application to a Christian context such as evangelism, worship, or discipleship (of an artist, or of others through the use of contextualized art forms).


  1. Hey, what details can you share about the relief art up top?

  2. Unfortunately, there's no information available on this specific carving. However, I found it on an obituary for Father Kevin Carroll (click on the image to go to the obituary), a Catholic priest who worked with Nigerian (non-Christian) artists and "integrated local carvers into... teaching resources. In the past these crafts were often so closely associated with paganism that such initiatives got little encouragement from older missionaries." Some of the carvers also produced work for non-Christian commissions as well. Father Carroll was an art historian as well, and wrote two books during his lifetime: Yoruba Religious Carving: Pagan and Christian Sculpture in Nigeria and Dahomey, and Architectures of Nigeria.

    Very possibly, this carving (of the Annunciation, I assume) was carved either by Bandele Areogun (b. 1910), Oshamuko (d. 1945) or Lamidi Fakeye (b. 1925), all of whom worked for the carving workshop established by Father Carroll (

    1. This wood carving is the top panel of a door on display at the African Art Museum in Tenafly, New Jersey ( It was carved in 1964 by Bandele of Osi-Ilorin, the son of Areogon. Mary is supposedly pounding yams in a mortar. (See page 41 of this PDF: .)

      Here are two very similar wood carvings of the Annunciation by Lamidi Fakeye: , . And here’s a door by the artist’s father (see bottom): . All three worked in a very similar style.