In this latest work, respected art historian T. J. Clark sets out to investigate the different ways painting has depicted the dream of God’s kingdom come: heaven descended to earth. He goes back to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance—to Giotto in Padua, Bruegel facing the horrors of religious war, Poussin painting the Sacraments, and Veronese unfolding the human comedy, in particular his inscrutable Allegory of Love. Was it ultimately to painting’s advantage that in an age of orthodoxy and enforced censorship (threats of hellfire, burnings at the stake) artists found ways reflect on the powers and limitations of religion without putting their thoughts into words? In conclusion Clark brings us into the Nuclear Age with Picasso’s Fall of Icarus, made for UNESCO in 1958, which already seems to signal, or even prescribe, an age when all futures are dead.
T.J. Clark is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books including the seminal The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers and Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism.