This week we’ll be looking at a selection of the ways the incarnation of Christ has been depicted in the visual arts, an area too often neglected by Evangelical Christianity.
Our first painting is entitled Verkundigung or “Annunciation,” done in 1911 by artist Oskar Kokoschka.
The striking feature of this painting is found in its difference from other paintings depicting this event – the appearance of the angel to Mary to announce our Savior’s arrival.
Rather than the pristine scenes that we’ve grown accustomed to, Kokoschka’s expressive strokes are evocative of the terror of that scene. Commenting on his own work, Kokoschka writes:
“A painter doesn’t copy anything, he makes a picture. A picture is something that wasn’t there before, you have to make it . A picture has to derive from a phenomenon that amazed me, terrified me, opened my eyes wide, and I must keep them open to master the phenomenon. You ‘make yourself a picture’, and when you have it, it gives you a fright. The terror is in the picture just as it was in the phenomenon before.” (Oskar Kokoschka, quoted in Beyond Belief: Modern Art and the Religious Imagination, p. 46).
For Kokoschka, art is intended to communicate. And to that end the painting communicates the “terror of the phenomenon” of the annunciation, and reminds us that Christ was incarnated into the complex world of human emotion.