Sunday, December 07, 2008

Inscription on the Cross

Inscription on the CrossThe question below comes from Bible artist Greg Owen from the U.S.

What did the sign look like that was on the cross?  Was it a clay tablet?  Was it wood?  Were the letters painted, or written in chalk?  Did it hang from a rope, or was it nailed up? (weren't nails expensive, making rope or wooden peg more likely?)
Perhaps we cannot know for sure.  But what is your best guess, considering Roman history and the most common ways of making signs at this time in history?

Thanks for this question Greg. When I recently illustrated the Crucifixion story, I must admit, my research was more centered on the inscription rather than on the tablet itself. In 'Bible Manners and Customs' it says:
"It was a Roman custom in cases of capital execution to put on a tablet the crime for which the condemned suffered, this tablet being placed in full view of all who witness the execution.... The tablet was sometimes carried by the condemned man himself, hung around his neck, on the way to execution.
In the official Language of the Romans it was called 'Titulus'. It was a metal plate, having black letters on a white ground."

It would make sense that this tablet was made of metal as it would have been reused from one execution to the next. In the last post we looked at how the black ink used at this time was also water soluble so each inscription could have been easily washed off with a sponge and water. How was the metal background whitened? It's possible that the same chalk mixture that was used to whiten tombs, (see 'Raising Lazarus' post), was used. This was also water soluble.
No doubt the heinous crimes recorded on these tablets were intended to incite and enrage the onlookers!
Jesus' crime "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS" must have received a mixed reaction.
It would also make sense that the rope which supported the tablet around the neck of the victim, also held the tablet to the cross, hung from a wooden peg nailed into the vertical beam. Most scholars believe that only the horizontal beam of the cross was carried by the victim to the crucifixion site.

There are others who believe that these tablets were made from hardwood.
Whether you believe in relics or not, there is one relic that some experts believe to be the actual sign from above the cross. The 'TITULUS CRUCIS' was made of walnut wood! So maybe my wooden representation of the titulus, shown above, was not too far out!

Related posts:
Crucifixion (part 1)
Crucifixion (part 2)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Biblical Animation

Had an email this morning from Nathan Daniel from the 'Biblical Animation blog'.
Some of you will know that Nathan has been working on a 3D animated film of Nebuchadnezzar's dream which is now finished apart from a little tweaking.
You can see some of the finished stills from the film on Nathan's blog.

As some of you will know Nathan is our language expert on the blog. Nathan informs me that he will probably upload the film at some point for readers to view.
I look forward to that. Thanks Nathan!
Picture © Nathan Daniel 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Healing of the Paralyzed Man

Healing of the Paralyzed Man
Just finished the story of the healing of the paralyzed man from Mark ch2. There are six pictures in this set which brings our total Bible picture count to 758.

Picture one shows the four men with their friend on a stretcher outside the crowded house. One of the men is pointing upwards towards the roof. Picture 2 shows two of the men taking their friend up the exterior steps built into the side of the house, while another is starting to break up the roof. You can see the 2 foot high parapet wall around the top of the roof, a building regulation laid down in Deut 22:8.

Breaking through the roof seems a little extreme, but apparently this was a common practice in those days for the purpose of lowering down grain, straw and other articles. Dr Thomson in 'The Land and the Book' wrote "The roof could easily be broken in this manner, and easily repaired." There are many other explanations as to how the roof was taken up in this story, some required very little damage to the roof itself. It comes down to which theory you prefer. This is not set in stone! Click here for more information on houses in Bible times.

Picture 3 (above) shows the paralyzed man being lowered down before Jesus. This picture appears on the cover of the new ICB Gospel of Luke, (only 99p!)
In picture 4 we see Jesus questioning the scribes. When you illustrate a scribe, remember to add an 'inkhorn' hanging from his belt. Inkhorns were long slim boxes about 9-10 inches in length and 2 inches wide. They were made of either a hardwood like ebony or more commonly from metal such as silver, brass or copper. They were exquisitely carved and contained the writing implements used by the scribe. The inkhorn was divided into two parts, the main longer box held the reed pens and a knife, while the smaller 'inkstand', which was a much heavier little box with a hinged lid, held the powered ink. The ink, (which needed water adding to it before it could be used), was made from a mixture of lamp soot or pulverized charcoal and gum. Because this ink was water soluble, it could be easily erased with a sponge and water!

In picture 5, Jesus heals the paralyzed man. In picture 6 the man is following the command of the Lord Jesus by taking up his bed and going home!
This set of pictures will be uploaded to the 'Bible picture website' shortly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Campaign for 'Real' Christmas cards!

It's that time of year again when everyone's rushing around trying to find good Christmas cards, (and Bible artists are kicking themselves for not producing any! Which l do every year!)

I'm not sure what it's like in the US, but in the UK it gets harder every year to find really nice Christmas cards that contain the 'real meaning' of Christmas. If the major card producers and outlets are turning their backs on the real meaning of Christmas, (which they seem to be), then maybe it's time to buy our cards elsewhere! I don't know about you but I'd rather pay more for a card with meaning! As we approach a time of recession, think about how giving your business to the smaller Christian card manufacturers and retailers could really help them through a tough time. As the high street shops are not selling the cards we want anyway, it makes a lot of sense!

So where can we find good Christmas cards? One of the best selections will be found at your local Christian bookshop, but there are some very good online stores too. I always like to give a plug at this time of year to the range of cards produced by the Nazareth Village Project. (The photo above was taken there!) Click here to see their latest range.

If there are any other manufacturers of 'Real Christmas cards' out there with an online store, please send me a link to display on this post. Also if you're a card manufacturer and would like to use some of our Bible art on your Christmas cards or Advent calendars next year, contact Jem Hudson.

To find out more about the photo above, click here.

If you agree with this post then send it to a friend! Let's start the Campaign for 'Real Christmas cards'. Let me know where you buy yours.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nativity pictures: Part two.

Nativity picturesLast week I finally finished the second part of the Nativity story which I intended finishing about this time last year! (My apologies). There are now 14 pictures covering the whole of the Nativity story. Part one is here.

There are 7 pictures in part two , which cover the visit of the wise men to the fleeing of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to Egypt. Part two of this story brings our total Bible picture count to 752.

Picture 8 shows the wise men arriving in the courtyard of Herod's Palace. Above the curved section of Roman columns you can see the Mariamme Tower. Out of the three towers that Herod had built, The Mariamme Tower was the most ornate. Josephus said "the king considering it appropriate that the tower named after a woman should surpass in decoration those called after men."
The tower is named after Herod's beloved Hasmonean wife Mariamme whom he had murdered!
Picture 9 (above) shows the wise men before Herod. Picture 10 shows Herod with his advisors. Picture 11 shows the wise men leaving the palace and the reappearance of the star! See the post 'Nazareth or Egypt' for more on this.

Picture 12 shows the wise men bringing gifts to the infant Jesus in a house, (not a stable). In picture 13 we see Joseph being warned in a dream to flee.
Picture 14 (right) we see Mary, Joseph and Jesus entering Egypt. I reconstructed the Sphinx to go in the back ground of this picture but decided that it was too busy!

Related posts:

Nativity pictures: Part one
Nazareth or Egypt?
Pictures of the Nativity
Drawing Angels!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pictures of Creation

Pictures of CreationA couple of weeks ago I finished the new version of Creation. Just knowing where to start when capturing the awesome events of creation is always a challenge to the Bible artist. What makes it even harder is when you know that you've already illustrated it twice before, and each time you want to do a better job!

There are seven pictures in this set. This brings our total Bible picture count to 745.
Picture one illustrates the first two verses of Genesis ch 1. Picture two shows the creation of light on day one. (Not the sun, which wasn't created until day four). I remember hearing a lecture given many years ago by a professor from Jodrell Bank Space observatory. He explained how we know that light came before anything else. Mind blowing stuff! I wish I could remember all of what he said.
Picture 3, (above), depicts day two. Picture 4, (day three), shows when the land and all plant life appeared. Most artists show this scene taking place during the day. Because the sun was not created until the following day, I chose not to show a blue sky, but rather bathe this scene in the brilliant white light created on day one.

Picture 5, (Day four), shows the creation of the sun, moon and stars which presumably included the multitude of galaxies also. When we consider the immensity of our own solar system alone we have to join in with the psalmist and say "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him..." Psalm 8:3-4.
Picture 6, (day five), is always a little tricky, and most artists (including myself) usually divide the canvas into two. The top half being sky, the bottom half water. It is the easiest way to show both birds and fish, but there is always the risk of your illustration looking like a page from an animal encyclopedia! (Which mine does!)

I noticed in DC Comic's 'The Bible' illustrated by Joe Kubert and Nestor Redondo, that they show the animals being created on day five, not day six, which is a pretty basic mistake. Other than that it's a very well thought out and well researched publication, and I love Nestor Redondo's art.
Picture 7, (day six), shows Adam and Eve with a selection of the animals. In my two previous versions of creation I have only shown Adam with the animals on day six because chapter two covers the creation of Eve. On reflection this was not correct as both Adam and Eve are mentioned at the end of Chapter one. Chapter two is like a recap. The Bible back-tracks in the story to look at the creation of Eve in more detail.

Any depictions of dinosaurs were rare until the end of the 19th century which explains why they don't appear in earlier Bible pictures of day six. I'm not sure when dinosaurs started to appear in Bible illustrations, possibly early to mid 20th century. Bible artists of today regularly add dinosaurs into their pictures, in fact they feature quite heavily in CEF'S curriculum.

I would like to close this post with a quote that I like from Dr. "Fritz" Schaefer, Professor of Chemistry and the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He said "The significance and joy in my science comes in the occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, 'So that's how God did it!' My goal is to understand a little corner of God's plan."
To read Dr Schaefer's article 'Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang, and God' click here.

To see some stunning pictures of God's creation, click here!
The heavens declare the glory of God. Psalm 19:1

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bible Artist's Models

I've received some interesting emails recently that I thought I'd share with you.
Philip Hanna contacted me from Kentucky in the U.S. to tell me that his mother, an Armenian lady, now 86 years of age, has a very interesting friend. Philip's mom grew up in Palestine and her close friend Najibe (Nadia) Kattan was the model for Mary (right) in Elsie Anna Wood's Bible illustrations. Philip received a phone call from Najiba only yesterday. She now lives in Los Angeles. Phil said that whenever his mom sees EAW'S pictures of Mary, she can recognize her friend's face from many years ago. Philips parents served for many years as Presbyterian missionaries in Lebanon.

I also received an email a few weeks ago from Linda Martin in Ontario, Canada whose great grandfather was William Hicks. Hicks worked on a farm in Shoreham Kent, and was the model for Moses (left) in Harold Copping's Bible illustrations.
Linda wanted to see Copping's pictures of Moses to see what her great grandfather looked like. As I still don't own a 'Copping Bible', I forwarded her request onto Dr Sandy Brewer.
Sandy Brewer was also contacted a few weeks back by the son of Henry Wickenden. Henry Wickenden was the model for the African boy in Copping's famous painting 'The Hope of the World'. Although Wickenden was not black, he was chosen because of his thick curly hair!

When I last spoke to Bible artist Keith Neely, he had a staggering 21,479 photos which he had taken of models in Bible costume! And that was for the Old Testament alone!
I suggested that when he and his team finish the 7,600 illustrations needed for the Thomas Nelson Illustrated Bible, that he should upload the best of these reference photos onto the web, or maybe bring out a collection of them for sale on dvd! If you would like to see some samples of Keith Neely's Bible figure reference photos, click here. This is one of Keith's Bible illustrations (right) which is in a different style to the one adopted for the T.N.I.B.
Image © Keith Neely 2008

Valerie Neild from London contacted me to ask if any of our readers might have any more information on Bible Artist William Hole? Valerie is a relative of William Hole and would like to find out more about him. If you have any information, please pass it on to me and I will forward it on to Valerie. Many thanks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

UBS 'Global Illustration Project'

Attention all Bible Artists!
I've Just received an email from Randolph Capp in Germany with details of a very exciting project being organized by the 'United Bible Societies’. The ‘Global Illustration Project’ is looking for Bible illustrators to produce around 200 Bible illustrations for use around the globe. An excerpt from Randolph's email follows:
An artist's opportunity of a lifetime – a global illustration project!
The United Bible Societies is a fellowship of 145 national Bible Societies working in over 200 countries. Bible Societies serve Christians in every continent, providing Scriptures at a price that people can afford. Bible Societies are not affiliated to any one Christian denomination, but serve all Christian churches and develop products and services appropriate to local needs.
One of these needs is for Bibles and Bible storybooks, both for children and families. Toward that end, the United Bible Societies is seeking to commission artists on a work-for-hire basis to produce a collection of 200 high quality, colour illustrations that any national Bible Society can use for this purpose. In a sense, the collection is best thought of as a database of artwork from which Scripture materials can be produced. It is to be called the UBS 'Global Illustration Project'.

The level of artistic expertise for this work is high. Illustrators must be "visual translators" of the Biblical events. All costumes, architecture, fauna, and ethnicities must be accurate to the text. In addition, the artist's style must be acceptable across a wide range of cultures and aesthetic tastes. While a single artist for the entire collection is preferred, it is more realistic that an artist is commissioned for the Old Testament and another for the New Testament.
Any artist interested in submitting samples and pursuing further discussions about the UBS Global Illustration Project is invited to contact Randolph Capp, (UBS Design Consultant).

Randolph sent me two sample illustrations, (one shown below) as a guide to the artistic level required. Randolph added, “We’re not necessarily looking for artists who can duplicate this particular style, but who can depict realistic, complex compositions in a manner that is not stiff and boring, like so many classic Bible illustrations”.

I'll try to keep you up-to-date with news about this exciting illustration project.
My apologies for the delay since my last post. I'm still recovering from a bad dose of flu!

I now know that the illustrator of the picture above was Patrick Berkenkotter. You can read about his experiences working on the UBS Global Illustration Project here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday B.I.B!

Yes, the Bible illustration blog was officially two years old on the 3rd October!
Readership of the blog continues to grow steadily each month. We now have over 1,000 visitors every week! I would like to take this opportunity again to say a big "Thank you" to all the readers and contributors, and I look forward, God willing, to posting more new articles, interviews and book reviews in the coming months.

When I started the B.I.B. two years ago, I only expected that a handful of Bible artists would ever visit. I never dreamt that University professors, Lecturers and Archeologists would eventually form part of the regular readership! I've been amazed by the amount of interest that the blog has received.

There are 112 posts to date which means that I add just over one post per week on average, so make sure that you visit at least once a week to check it out!
If you're a new visitor to this blog, you can find all the past posts in the 'Posts by Topic' section in the right hand column.
Many thanks again for your support of the B.I.B.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Journey to the Holy Land

I've just read a copy of 'A Journey to the Holy Land'. (An artist's diary by Margaret W. Tarrant), which I purchased from Amazon for 1p!
This is a 24 page shortened version of her own diary, which she called 'With a Sketchbook in Palestine'. It's a lovely little book illustrated with some very nice watercolours and pencil sketches which she made during a six week visit to the Holy Land in 1936. The book reads more like a travelogue, and accurately chronicles life in the Holy land during the 1930's. For this reason, it's not as interesting to the Bible illustrator as Elsie Anna Wood's 'A Gift Returned with Love' whose observations related more to Biblical times.

MWT made some very useful detailed sketches of traditional costume, architectural features, landscapes and of course the local people busy about their various occupations, which she later referred to when completing her Bible pictures.
MWT didn't just stay in the popular tourist areas of Jerusalem and Nazareth; she was able to travel into the surrounding villages and observe life in these much poorer communities. The buildings here were, no doubt, more like those of Bible times.

From reading her diary, I got the impression that MWT, like William Hole, was so impressed by what she saw of Israel in 1936, that she felt no real need to change or adapt these scenes for her Bible pictures. She comments "There were thousands of people who looked as if they had stepped straight out of Bible stories!" EAW, on the other hand, discerned that much had changed in the Holy Land, and she strived to record only what she saw to be biblically accurate. Having said that, you will not be disappointed if you purchase this little book. The pictures are beautiful!

I chose to add this particular picture (left) because of the black cat sat on the roof!
We were looking at MWT's use of animals in the last post. On the back cover of this book there's an old photo of MWT with a large black cat draped over her shoulder. This begs the question "was the cat in this picture actually there on the roof of that Jerusalem wash house?" Or did MWT add her own cat into the picture?

In March of last year, MWT's original sketchbook entitled 'Palestine 1936' sold at auction
for £550. It contained seventy two pages of her pencil sketches. What a bargain! If you're looking for a bargain, you can still grab a copy of 'A Journey to the Holy Land' for 1p on Amazon! You'll have to be quick though!

Pictures © The Medici Society Ltd 2008

Related posts:
Bible Animals
Elsie Anna Wood

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bible Animals

I recently came across the above postcard for sale on Ebay. The illustration is by English Bible artist Margaret Tarrant. Her style is similar to that of Cicely Mary Barker whom she was good friends with. Like Elsie Anna Wood, Tarrant also went to Palestine in the 1930's to sketch and paint the landscape and it's people.

When I first saw this postcard, the animals struck me as being very British!
A fox, badger, cat, dog, pig, rabbits, goats, sparrows and an owl are all animals and birds that are commonly found in the British Isles. most of these animals and birds however, are found in the Bible, or at least have a close relative in the Holy Land. The Lord Jesus speaks of foxes in Matt 8:20, and dogs in Luke 16:21, He also mentions sparrows in Matt 10:29-31. Pigs, deer, owls and goats are all also mentioned in the Bible, as is the rock badger in Psalm 104:18, (although this was probably not the black and white British variety!)

Although cats are not directly mentioned in the Bible, we know that they were common in Egypt, so it's possible that there were some in Israel too, (although they wouldn't have been domesticated). It's been suggested that the reason that cats are not mentioned could be due to the fact that they were considered deities by the Egyptians.
There were no rabbits either, but there were two species of hare to be found in Syria, and one of these is very like the English variety.

We do tend to include in our pictures just the animals and birds that we readily associate with the Holy Land such as Camels, sheep, oxen, donkeys and doves. Maybe we should be a little more adventurous and, like Tarrant, add the odd fox or maybe even a cat into our Bible pictures! What do you think? If you're feeling adventurous, there's a helpful list of all the animals found in the Bible here.

Related posts:
What do ewe think?

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal SonThe latest set of Bible pictures to be completed is a new version of 'The Prodigal Son'. There are 9 pictures in the set which brings our total Bible picture count to 738. This set will be available shortly from the 'Bible Picture Website'.

Picture 1 shows the son asking his father for his inheritance.
Picture 2 shows the son leaving home. There's a look of excitement and anticipation on the son's face, but the father's heart is heavy.
I was reminded, when illustrating this scene, of the Norman Rockwell picture 'Breaking Home Ties'. Rockwell's picture always reminds me of the time when I left home at the age of 17 to train as a cartoonist in Scotland. My Dad always wore overalls just like the Dad in Rockwell's picture.

Picture 3 shows the prodigal son partying! Picture 4 shows the prodigal walking through a hot dusty scene. His clothes are worn and the sun is blazing down. There are carcasses of animals lying around to indicate the famine in the land. Picture 5 shows the prodigal with his head in his hands surrounded by pigs. The pigs are feeding on the pods that are scattered on the floor around him.

Picture 6 shows a view from one of the upper rooms of the fathers house. We are looking over the shoulder of the father who is looking in anticipation towards an approaching figure in the distance. It's a very peaceful evening scene bathed with a pinkish glow from the setting sun. the cattle and sheep are grazing. Two servants are sat on a nearby roof cooling down and another servant carries a water jug across the courtyard below. There are no signs of famine here!
The stone balustrade across the bottom of this window is based on one of Dr Leen Ritmeyer sketches shown in the Houses in Bible times post.

In picture 7 the father hugs his son. Picture 8 (above) shows the servants following the command of the father by putting a ring on the son's finger, shoes on his feet and giving him a new coat to wear. You can also see the fatted calf being led away in the background. I was reminded recently by a friend of mine (Paul Rockley) that the ring was a symbol of acceptance, and that the sandals denoted the son was now a free man (slaves went barefoot).
Notice also in this picture that the servants all have an earring in their right ear. This was a way of showing how kind this master was to his servants. They had served the master for six years according to the requirements laid down in Exodus 21:1-6 and could have gone free, but chose rather to be bond servants, or bond slaves.
A slave could choose whether he wanted to go free after six years service. If they loved their master, he or she could stay on as a bond servant. The ceremony for entering bond service was as follows. The freed slave was taken to the entrance of the house, and his or her right ear was pressed against the door or doorpost and then pierced through with an awl (a spike). An earring was then worn as a symbol to all that this man or woman was a servant by choice and could neither be bought or sold.
(see Ex 21:1-6 and Deut 15:17). Both Paul and Peter referred to themselves as bond servants of the Lord Jesus.

Picture 9 shows the father speaking to the angry brother. celebrations are going on in the house behind them. There is a golden glow from the house which falls onto the father, but not the brother. He is in the foreground with his back to the house and lit by a separate light source, the moon. This was to emphasize that the brother wanted no part in the celebrations.
All comments welcome.

Posts on some other Bible stories:
Blind Bartimaeus
The Rich Young Rular
On the road to Emmaus
Raising Lazarus
Woman taken in Adultery
Feeding the 5,000
Healing of the Ten Lepers
The Ascension
Parable of the lost coin
The Temptation of Christ
Jesus in the Temple

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Guest Bible Artist interview #5

Annie Vallotton
Annie Vallotton.
You may not be familiar with the name 'Annie Vallotton', but you will almost certainly have seen her pictures! Which is not surprising as a press release I came across recently from publisher HarperCollins claims that Ms Vallotton is the "Best selling artist of all time!" What you might find surprising though is that this 'best selling artist of all time' is famous for her Bible pictures! Swiss born Annie Vallotton, who now lives in Paris, provided the line illustrations for the 'Good News Bible' back in the 60's. According to the press release from HarperCollins, Ms Vallotton's picture sales are in excess of 70 billion-!!
last month, the 'American Church in Paris' dedicated a new library to Ms Vallotton called the 'Annie Vallotton lending library' and Ms Vallotton attended the service. (see picture above courtesy of Mike Norris).
Our 'Contact in Paris' Paula Taquet-Woolfolk, who attends the ACP, very kindly offered to interview Ms Vallotton on behalf of the Bible illustration blog, and conducted the interview in both French and English.

Before we go into the interview I would like to share with you a little bit about Annie Vallotton that Paula discovered while having lunch with her.
Annie, fresh from her art studies, didn't launch herself into a career, but worked in the refugee camps during the second World War painting frescos on the walls making them more welcoming to the refugees who included families from Poland, Estonia, and the Baltic region. Annie worked through the night on the murals and slept during the day!
It was while working in a refugee centre in Toulouse that AV met her lifelong friend Jeanne Bulté. Jeanne Bulté was a social worker, who was assigned to work in the same refugee center in Toulouse. During the war, both Annie and Jeanne worked in the Resistance. Annie's Swiss nationality helped her when she transported mail back and forth. While working in the camps Annie and Jeanne met Bertie Albrecht, (the leader of the Résistantes - the female part of the Resistance). Bertie told Annie that Annie's grandfather, Paul Vallotton, had baptised her many years before!
Later, Annie saw Bertie Albrecht on one of the streets of Paris, heavily disguised. Bertie told Annie that she had acted insane while she was in prison so that she could get out. Bertie continued to work in the Resistance until she was killed by the Germans.
Annie comes from a very talented family. Her father, Benjamin Vallotton, was a well known writer and wrote 55 books. Her father's cousin was the well known painter Félix Vallotton. Annie's brother Pierre followed in the footsteps on his Grandfather and became a minister. He also built by hand many magnificent church organs! Annie herself is also very musical and plays the violin.

The Interview:
How did you come to illustrate the Good News Bible, and how many illustrations did you complete for it?
In the early 60s, a man from the American Bible Society, American Eugene Nida (currently living in Brussels), contacted me from Germany to ask me if I could come to Stuttgart where he had ten minutes only during which he wanted to see me. Was I willing? Yes I was willing. I met him at the airport and he had one of my very first books with him. He wanted me to make illustrations for the Good News Bible (GNB) an edition for children, and he wanted the same kinds of illustrations that I had done in this book. He said "I want very much to have Your illustrations because your illustrations are very simple, and we love them!"
He said "Are you ready to do this?" I replied "Yes, I am quite ready!" I was very excited. Then I started doing the Bible illustrations and I've been doing them all of my life! (AV laughs). I believe I did around 510 drawings!

All in Black and white?
Yes, all in black and white unfortunately. I have recently received a new edition published by the Korean Bible Society with my illustrations in color. I was very surprised to see it in colour! I believe this is the first edition of the GNB with all illustrations in color. I asked the American Bible Society to make one, they agreed, but I've been waiting for three years!

Can you remember how long it took you to illustrate the Good News Bible?
I can't remember. It took me a long long time I must say, I didn't want to have illustrations with many lines. My desire was to have just the main lines. This is why I did some of the drawings 80-90 times before I achieved the one I wanted. I wanted to simplify them the most I could. I wanted to get to the truth...the most important thing!

Did you have an interest in the Bible before you were asked to illustrate the GNB?
Yes, I became a Christian at one month of age, (AV laughs), so I've always been interested in the Bible. My younger brother, Pierre Vallotton, is a minister, (now retired). He was at the Reformed Church of Saint-Dié, in the Vosges (Église Réformée de Saint-Dié). He built the organ there and asked me to design six stained-glass windows depicting the Creation. It was a fascinating job to do! (see windows below). Also on one of the inside walls of the Église Réformée de Saint-Dié, there's a large painting by the French painter and Pastor Henri Lindegaard (1925- 1996).

Can you remember having any difficulty depicting any Biblical characters, or a particular Bible story?
No particular difficulties - I wanted to illustrate everything, even if it was very difficult. My desire made it easy. I wanted to reach the youngsters.

Your style has a timelessness about it due to its simplicity, and yet at the same time, you manage to get so much expression 
into each picture. Did you illustrate the GNB in your own style, or did you simplify your own style?

Yes, yes. Exactly so! I wanted to be as simple as I could, especially for the youngsters, but also for the adults too!

Many people have commented that your pictures never distract from the text, and never try to interpret the story. Was his difficult to accomplish?
I did not find this difficult to accomplish, because I tried to find total simplicity.

Did you find yourself having to do much research into Bible clothing, buildings, customs etc?
I had no need to research clothing or buildings, you see, I wanted drawings that were 'out of time'.

What did you use to illustrate the pictures with? Also, did you add colour to any of the pictures yourself?
I used a pencil to do the roughs and a pen to ink them. I never added color, someone else did that.

Do you still do any Bible illustrations?
Yes! What I am doing a lot now is speaking to children in many different churches. On 21st September I will be speaking at 'Temple du Foyer de l'Âme'. I am going to this church to speak to the children about the Lord, and to draw for the children. I hope to have a lot of children there. I will teach them a song also! (AV sings a little chorus for Paula, she's very musical!)

Have you illustrated any other Bible related books?
Yes, several. 'Priority: Jesus' life in 60 drawings', 'From the Apple to the Moon', 'The Mighty One and Sam', 'Who Are You Jesus', 'The Man who said No: Story of Jonah' also 'Blessed Are the Peacemakers'. I also worked with author Claire-Lise de Benoit. Our books were published in Africa in many different dialects. Over one hundred I believe!

Bible artists rarely get recognized for their work, but this month saw the opening of a library in Paris dedicated to you! (At the American Church in Paris)
Was this a big surprise to you?
Nothing coming from the Americans surprises me! (AV laughs). I was very, very touched, I love the American people.

I read on the internet recently that, according to the publisher Harper Collins, you are the 'Best selling Artist of all time'. Do you have any comments on that?
(Ms Vallotton laughs) Laughter is the king, and saves one's life! You especially need humor! Too many people read the Bible with a severe face! I say no, the Bible is not that! The Bible is life, and it is wonderful! (Paula agrees).

The photo above was taken in the church which Annie attends and shows her speaking to the children with the aid of an overhead projector. Annie Vallotton clearly loves children, and has dedicated her life to presenting the Bible message in the clearest possible way to them. It's fitting that the illustrator of the 'Good News' Bible is still active presenting the Good News in person! I would like to close with a quote from another interview with Anne Vallotton conducted by Annie Biroleau-Lemagny. (kindly translated by Paula Taquet-Woolfolk).
"She (Annie) attributes the success (of her pictures) to the simplicity, and the absence of ethnocentrism which permits each person to project his own face and his own culture onto her graphic suggestions".

Thank you so much again Ms Vallotton for agreeing to the interview. A big thank you also to Paula Taquet-Woolfolk for conducting the interview, and Mike Norris, also from the American Church in Paris, for providing the photo of the dedication service.
As Ms Vallotton has no internet access, I will send a selection of the comments that readers leave on this post for her to see.

Update: December 2009
Just received a Christmas card from Annie in which she writes:
"I love very much all what is said in the comments on the Bible illustration blog...... All the comments go in my heart because they look so sincere."
Annie goes on to say that she wants to write a reply to each comment which she is doing slowly. I will add these comments as soon as I receive them.

Black and white photo © Eglise Réformée de l'Oratoire du Louvre 2008.
Annie Vallotton illustrations © Bible society 2008

Related posts:
Interview with Jeff Anderson
Interview with Keith Neely
Interview with Diana Shimon
Interview with Dr Leen Ritmeyer

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Gift Returned with Love

Elsie Anna WoodI am deeply indebted to Prof Sandy Brewer for the loan of the very rare book 'A Gift Returned with Love' which is a brief autobiography by Bible artist Elsie Anna Wood. EAW was 87 years old at the time of writing and was living in a nursing home in Norwich. She died 4 years later in 1978 at the age of 91.This is one of the most unusual books I've ever seen. It has obviously been self published presumably at a low cost and is very simply bound. It contains no pictures, and the text is in a typewriter font which gives it the feel of an original manuscript. Combined with the poor quality paper, the impression is given that this is an unimportant book which it most certainly is not! Anyone with an interest in Bible illustration will find this a wonderfully fascinating and important book! It deserves to be reprinted and fully illustrated with EAW's full color pictures.

EAW saw herself as a 'Missionary Artist', and a successor in this respect to Harold Copping. A Missionary artist is one who provides pictures for missionary societies to help them present the Gospel message. EAW was a missionary artist in the true sense as not only did she go to live amongst the people that she was drawing, but just as a missionary has to learn a new language in order to effectively communicate, she also adapted her style of illustration, or rather she learned the 'visual language' of the people in order that her illustrations would be better understood by them. When in Egypt she wrote:
"...everything had to be noted and learnt, before I could begin to draw in a way which would be familiar and acceptable to the children who knew only their own country and its ways". She also makes an interesting observation about light and shadow in the Holy Land.
"Here I observed that even in representational paintings there was no use of shadows, as we are accustomed to see in Europe.....I began to perceive that this flat shadowless treatment was in fact due to the actual appearance of things in intense light. For the strong sunlight on the ground reflects light onto vertical surfaces, almost abolishing shadows". She also wrote "I found that when at the first I drew in pen and ink, using fine lines and cross-hatching for shadows to which I had been accustomed, the comment might be "Why has he got dirt on his face?" So I learnt that I must follow the Eastern manner and do without shadow....Although at the time I did not realise it, this study was for me equivalent to the language study with which most people started their missionary career. I was learning not word language but picture language".

EAW was especially thrilled to visit Jerusalem. She wrote "I am in love with Jerusalem. It is a much more beautiful place than I had imagined." she did regret not staying in the Jewish quarter of the city however, as she explains "It is probable that if I had lived in that Jewish Quarter I should have painted my pictures with more of the Hebrew rather than Arab touch."

When asked how long it might take her to complete the task of illustrating the 'Life of Christ' in fifty pictures, EAW estimated two years. She later commented "I had at first, in my ignorance, estimated that I would need two years to complete fifty pictures-!! Then I thought that they could be done in five years. Finally, with some other work undertaken, I found that 35 years had passed when nearly one hundred had gone to press. She had commented earlier "I don't want to sacrifice quality to speed though, in fact I just can't."
Sandy Brewer informed me that EAW had been involved in a car accident while in the Holy Land which had affected her eyesight.
EAW had hoped to be able to complete 100 Bible pictures, and despite problems with her eyesight, she still managed to complete 95!

EAW's research was second to none! In 1934, in preparation for her pictures of the Nativity she travelled to Bethlehem and sketched the landscape and the people. Later, when she had to draw Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, (see left), she travelled to Jerusalem and stayed in a little hostel belonging to the Greek Orthodox Convent which was situated in the upper garden itself. EAW comments "For the Gethsemane drawing, I had to get my information about the probable position and appearance of things. It would have been a moonlight scene, for Passover was at the time of full moon." While at the convent she would go out at night "to sit among the olives and try to determine what exactly is the colour of moonlight. I made rough charcoal studies of the trees (one cannot paint by moonlight) then I would come indoors and colour my sketches according to what I remembered, and out again, till I became too weary."
After EAW describes in her book the great lengths she went to in choosing the location for the Crucifixion picture, she says "Of course such detail as this makes no difference to the intrinsic truth of the story, but it does make a considerable difference to the maker of the picture, for the sense of actuality of a definite place and situation creates a firm basis on which the scene can be built up in one's mind." I agree with this comment wholeheartedly. If all the detail that Bible artists include in their pictures only satisfies them, it's been well worth the effort!

I found the book thrilling! I could associate with so much of what EAW speaks about, even down to the way she chooses a paintbrush! But what is most helpful is the wonderful way that EAW vividly describes the colors and scenery of the Holy Land. This book can only be described as a feast! I'm so glad that EAW wrote this book. In her closing remarks she writes "I look back to the day when, singing in the Sunday School, I mentally decided to be "on the Lord's side". A child's resolution has never been regretted. And as I trace the series of events which led to the task of painting the life of Christ, I see that He has acknowledged my resolve. For hardly a Sunday School or even a Day School is without at least some of my pictures of that life.
But how very much of their value depends not only on the pictures but upon the teachers who use them, giving children an awareness of Christ, His love and His power."

Elsie Anna Wood was a special lady with a great gift. A gift that she used for her Lord. It was a 'Gift returned with Love'.

Pictures © SPCK 2008

Related posts:
Elsie Anna Wood
More Elsie Anna Wood Bible Art

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Lost Sheep

The Lost Sheep
Our latest Bible picture story to be completed is 'The Lost Sheep'.
There are 4 pictures in this set which brings our total Bible picture count to 729.
Part of picture 4 (right) shows the traditional method used by shepherds to carry sheep.

Drawing a Biblical Shepherd!
I thought I might share with you a few bits of information about Biblical Shepherds that might come in useful to anyone who needs to draw one.
The equipment of a shepherd:
We only usually identify a shepherd in our pictures by the addition of a staff or crook, but there were a number of other items that a shepherd used too. Many shepherds like David used a sling. A sling was used to both ward off or kill predators that threatened the sheep. What happened though, if the stone missed its target, or the predator was too close for the sling to be used? In Psalm 23, David says "Thy Rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." We've already mentioned
the shepherds staff
which was used to hook under the front legs of a sheep that was in danger, and lift it to safety. It was the rod however that the shepherd used to defend both himself and the sheep at close quarters when the sling had failed.
This rod, which you can see being used by a shepherd in the picture (left) by Elsie Anna Wood, was more like a two foot long club, thicker at one end and typically made of oak wood. Sometimes spikes were driven into the hitting end for greater impact! It was a club like this that David used to rescue the lamb from the lion's mouth. David, who was familiar with the shepherds 'tools of the trade,' uses the picture of both the rod and staff to show how God is one who would both Defend and Rescue him in times of trouble. This was a great comfort to him.
A Scrip was a bag that was made of a dried goat's skin and was used by the shepherd to carry his food such as bread, cheese, olives or dried fruit. The shepherd also carried a cloak which doubled up as his bedding at night.

The shepherds entertainment:
Shepherds spent long hours out in the fields, and remember there were no ipods or GoBibles to listen to in those days, they had to make their own entertainment which was often in the form of music.
A flute was often taken into the fields to pass the time. No doubt this had a calming effect on the sheep too!
Were the sheep the first to hear Davids harp playing?

The Shepherd as a Door:
The sheepfold was often just a circular dry stone wall with an opening that served as an entrance into it. It was in this opening that the shepherd sat and slept. In this way the shepherd both protected the sheep from danger and stopped them from straying. The shepherd was acting as a door to the sheepfold. This is what the Lord Jesus was speaking of when He referred to Himself as the 'Door of the sheep'. (John 10: 7-10)

I hope that this has been helpful. All comments welcome!
Elsie Anna Wood picture © SPCK.

Related posts:
What do 'Ewe' think?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jesus in the Temple

Jesus in the TempleOur latest Bible picture story is of the 12 year old Jesus in the Temple, (Luke 2:41-51). Picture 1 shows Mary Joseph and Jesus stopping for a moment on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem. As they admire the view, many people are making their way to the temple for the Passover feast.

Picture 2 shows the family climbing the steps approaching one of the gates in the outer wall of the temple complex. Some artists have shown the Shofar being blown when depicting this story, I've checked this out from two sources and both have confirmed that the shofar was not blown at passover. If you would like to know what the shofar sounds like, click here. (It sounds remarkably like me practicing my bugle when I was in the boy scouts!) Picture 2 also shows Jesus carrying the sacrificial lamb on His shoulders.
Update: 31.08.08
I've been asked the question "Should the Lord Jesus, being sinless, have been taking a lamb for a sacrifice? Might this suggest that He had sins to atone for?"
The answer is no! The Passover is very different from the day of Atonement. The Paschal lambs offered at Passover were not considered as an atonement for sin, or a sin offering. Passover is a time when the nation of Israel celebrates the deliverance of the LORD by means of the blood of the lamb. For a more detailed explanation click here.
This was again foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus. Just as the Israelites were safe from Gods judgement as they took shelter under the blood of the lamb applied to the door posts and lintel, we can only be safe from the judgement of God on our sins by taking refuge under the shed blood of Christ which is applied when we fully trust in Jesus and His sacrifice as the only way back to God. (John 14: 6)

Picture 3 shows Mary and Joseph on their way home from Jerusalem and discussing where Jesus is. It was a three day trip from Jerusalem to Nazareth, so they were almost half way home when they realised that Jesus was missing!
Picture 4 (above) shows Jesus in the temple reading from a scroll. Mary and Joseph are looking on in the background. The Hebrew text on the scroll is readable and Jumbo, (our language expert), informs me that it's from Exodus 12!

Picture 5 (right) shows Mary and Joseph talking with Jesus. The viewpoint is from the 'Eastern Gate' looking across the 'Womens Court' to the Temple.
The bronze doors of the Nicanor Gate are now open revealing the magnificent 'Golden Vine' of the temple just inside the porch. The golden doors are open so the curtain, that was the subject of the 'Defending Rembrandt' post, is drawn across the entrance. You can just make out the Altar to the right of Jesus' shoulder. In the larger version of this picture you can see, (if your eyesight's good), a scarlet line around the waist of the altar.
There is no mention in the scriptures of a scarlet line around the Altar of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness nor in that in the Temple of Solomon, but according to Middot 3.2. a red line surrounded the middle of the Altar that stood in front of Herod's Temple.
Source 'The Quest' pg367.

It's now 3-4 days after the passover and work on the Temple has resumed as can be seen by the Herodian craftsmen carrying timber in the background of this picture.

Following our discussion on symbolism in the paintings of the earlier Bible artists, (see comments on the 'Elsie Anna Wood' post), I decided to add some symbolism into this picture. I've shown the body of Jesus touching the Altar, (although the Altar is some distance away). This is a reminder that, 21 years later, the 'Lamb of God' would be sacrificed, not on an Altar but on a cross, for the sins of the world.

A very short distance from this spot (the Holy of Holies) in Old Testament times, God had provided a Ram as a substitute for Isaac. This was a foretelling of Gods plan to provide a perfect sinless sacrifice (Jesus) to die as a substitute for the sins of the world so that "Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". John 3:16.

There are 5 pictures in this set which brings our total Bible picture count to 725.

Related posts:
What did Herod's Temple look like?
The Quest

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More 'Elsie Anna Wood' Bible Art

Elsie Anna WoodBy popular demand we have two more samples of the Bible Art of 'Elsie Anna Wood' very kindly supplied by Dr Sandy Brewer. The first one is titled 'Jairus' daughter'. The second picture is 'Jesus stilling the storm'.

I've received a lot of emails from people wanting to know more about this artist and wanting to see more of her work. Sadly, there's only one book that's been written about this artist titled 'A Gift Returned With Love' which I believe is very hard to get hold of. This is surprising as she really sounds like a fascinating lady.
If I hear of any others books I'll let everyone know via the blog.

I would love to see an illustrated Bible using the Bible illustrations of artists from this era, Elsie Anna Wood, Harold Copping, Cicely Mary Barker, and William Hole etc. With an introduction by Sandy Brewer! Now that would be an illustrated children's Bible worth having!

Click on the pictures to see a larger image.

Related posts:
Elsie Anna Wood

Monday, August 11, 2008

Defending Rembrandt

I recently came across a very interesting article on JSTOR titled 'Rembrandt and Josephus' by Franz Landsberger who I believe was professor of 'The History of Art' at the University of Breslau. The article was originally printed in the The Art Bulletin in 1954 and can be viewed here.

In the article professor Landsberger informs us that amongst the inventory of Rembrant's possesions taken in 1656 were the complete works of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. Landsberger goes on to show us that Rembrant studied the works of Josephus when working on his Bible pictures of the Temple. He comments:
Rembrandt has represented the Temple in Jerusalem on several occasions but never in such detail as in the etching of 1659, Peter and John at the Gate of the Temple. (See above). Where did Rembrandt get information about the appearance of this Temple?...........This Temple has been described in detail, though not always systematically and clearly, by the Jewish historiographer Josephus.........I maintain that the artist followed that description.

Landsberger also mentions how Rembrandt used the German translation of Josephus which omits certain details about Herod's temple which led Rembrandt to illustrate a round as opposed to a square altar. Rembrandt also places the altar at the top of the 12 steps leading to the temple. The Altar was in fact accessed by a ramp and was positioned in front of, and offset to the left of the 12 steps in the Temple court. (according to a diagram in The Quest').
It looks like a very interesting article although, not being a subscriber to JSTOR, I only have access to the first page of it! There is one observation that professor Landsberger makes about the canopy in Rembrandt's etching (above) though, that I disagree with. He writes:
The second gate, leading from the porch to the Holy, had a costly curtain which Josephus describes in Antiquities and the War of the Jews. He calls it a "Babylonian curtain" and praises its colors and patterns. Rembrandt, in order to show this curtain, has pulled it forward so that it spans the porch like a canopy. The portion of it which hangs down perpendicularly, shows an indication of the patterns mentioned by Josephus.

Pulling forward a curtain in the temple so that viewers could see it didn't sound to me like something that a Bible artist would do. Dr Leen Ritmeyer confirmed my doubts when he explained to me the purpose of this curtain.
"The veil was intended to screen the entrance to the sanctuary, so that people couldn't look into it when the doors were opened. It was never used as a canopy".
I believe that the canopy shown in Rembrandt's etching is just that, a canopy! Typical of the canopies that most Bible artists include in their pictures. I have gleaned one helpful bit of information from all of this; The entrance to the sanctuary was concealed either by the magnificent golden doors or, when the doors were open, by the "Babylonian curtain" described by Josephus in War 5.212
All comments welcome!

Green text © Franz Landsberger 1954.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Egermeier's Bible Story book

Egermeier's Bible Story book
I've finally got hold of a copy of 'Egermeier's Bible Story book' written by Elsie E. Egermeier and illustrated by Clive Uptton, and I must say that it's superb!
If you're a parent, grand parent, or Bible illustrator, and you've been looking for a good children's Bible, this is the one for you! It's one of the best children's Bible story books to come out in recent years! I would highly recommend it.

This book contains 122 excellent illustrations by Clive Uptton, and has a very useful 'question and answer' section on each story that parents and children will love. These questions will be very useful too for children's quizzes. There are many other features too that you don't normally see in a children's Bible story book.

Full marks to the 'Warner Press' team!

Related posts:
Clive Uptton

Friday, August 08, 2008

Elsie Anna Wood

Many thanks to Prof Sandy Brewer for writing our fourth 'Guest Article' for the Bible illustration blog. Click on the pictures below for a larger image.

Elsie Anna Wood (1887 – 1978)

Elsie Anna Wood was born into a Baptist family who were all active in the local chapel in Crouch End, North London. Like so many other women illustrators – e.g. Cicely Mary Barker, Margaret Tarrant and Eileen Soper - she was fortunate in having an artistically talented father to encourage her precocious talents. Charles Wood worked in the art department of a London publishing firm, and, from a very early age, she was encouraged to draw and paint , and introduced to the tools, materials and skills required of a commercial artist. Elsie attended the Hornsey School of Art from the age of seventeen but was prevented from advancing to the Academy schools of art by a change in her family’s circumstances that necessitated her seeking paid employment. She produced illustrations for various publications working only in pencil or ink and taking up the challenge of full colour illustrations for books in her early twenties. Up to this point Elsie Anna Wood’s life might have taken the trajectory of contemporaries such as Margaret Tarrant who lived and worked in the Engish Home Counties, but in 1919 she successfully applied for a job with the Nile Mission Press working under the auspices of Constance Padwick in Cairo. Her role was to provide the accompanying illustrations for the children’s literature produced by the Press. The post was for six months and enabled Elsie to travel through Palestine as well as Egypt.

After returning to the UK she unsuccessfully applied to serve as a missionary overseas, but five years after leaving Cairo she was asked to return to Egypt to work for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK). It is the work she produced for the SPCK that made the name of Elsie Anna Wood synonymous with Bible illustration all around the world. Many artists before her had travelled to the Holy Land - e.g. Tissot, Hole, and Copping – to observe at first hand the people and places of the Bible, but none of them had moved beyond the experience of a tourist to live and work among the people as Elsie Anna Wood did. As a result of her close observation and drawing from Palestinian models, she has, uniquely, shown us a Christ from Palestine which is in stark contrast to the conventional blonde European portrayal of Jesus adopted by most twentieth century Bible illustrators. But her bible illustrations were innovative in other ways too.

In her illustration of the infant Jesus (left) she shows us a self-confident child who looks out – confrontationally - at the audience.
In the background detail of picture 1, (above right) she reminds us that Jesus spent his early years in Egypt. Dr Brewer pointed out to me that the boats in the background of picture one (above) are 'Dhows' which were traditional Arab sailing vessels. GK

In picture 4, (bottom centre), the depiction of Jesus as healer, she conveys the light and shade and the movement of the crowd in the confined space of a Palestinian town. Finally, in what is my favourite of all of her illustrations of Jesus blessing the children (below right) she makes the disciples sympathetic characters and does away with the forbidding effect they might have on young viewers.
It is an interesting composition which adopts as its point of view that of a child and the effect produced is one of looking upwards to Jesus. There is also a strong impression created of a crowd pressing in on Christ and, as in other versions of the scene, there is a tree arching over the top of the picture, but this one is laden with pomegranates – a fruit with particular symbolic significance for Christians. As we look longer into the picture, other small figures become visible, one of whom is holding onto Jesus’ robe, smiling shyly while looking out at the viewer. Jesus is shown holding one small child, as is the convention in the scene, but what is different here is that he is reaching out to touch the head of a baby, which is being held by one of the disciples. This man is looking down at the baby with what appears to be puzzlement and Christ is depicted as looking at him and smiling. At the top left of the picture is another disciple, again with an infant in his arms. This is not a scene of rejection but of joyful happiness and among its many innovations is that Jesus is shown with his hair cut short and his beard clipped, as are the disciples who look like the young men they actually were, rather than the elderly patriarchs of convention.

This picture is carefully composed to take account of the predispositions of the very young child. For example, it is notable that in many hymns for children the writers never seem to tire of stressing the smallness of children yet this picture offers a way for the young viewer to overcome the limitations of its small stature in relation to that of adults. The dynamic of the composition is created by the line of sight which starts with the mother in the bottom left hand corner, moves up past the two small children, on to Jesus’ face, and ends with the smiling face of a little girl sitting on her mother’s shoulders. It is an adult who is in the lowest position in the picture and a child in the highest.

The format of Sunday school kindergarten lesson was the telling of an illustrated story, followed by activities linked to what had been heard. Within that context, this picture offers a multitude of opportunities for imaginative engagement with what is being depicted. Because some of the detail is half-hidden in the picture, it offers the chance of a game of seeking out visual information – an activity that requires the involvement of the teacher. The attention to detail of dress and ornamentation is again typical of the artist, but also indicative of the level of authenticity that publishers and educationalists expected. Learning about the dress, the customs, and geography of the Holy Land was all part of the process of making Christ real for children. Having lived and worked in the Holy Land, Wood was familiar with the inhabitants and was able to produce depictions of Jesus, his disciples and the people around him as clearly belonging to Palestine, whilst at the same time avoiding the orientalist excesses of other illustrators.

Elsie Anna Wood produced over 100 bible illustrations for the SPCK, which were published in various formats as books, postcards, attendance stamps, as well as large posters for the Sunday school classroom. The pictures were produced for educational purposes and to that end seem to transcend the limitations of two dimensions by compositional devices which draw the viewer further into the picture the longer one looks at it.

Elsie Anna Wood was a remarkable woman making her own living in the UK and the Holy Land at a time when society deemed a woman’s place to be in the home. She was not only a brilliant artist, she was also more astute in her business dealings than other Bible illustrators. When Harold Copping produced his sixty-four illustrations for the Religious Tract Society he was given a fixed sum for each completed picture with no royalties for the millions of reproductions which followed from his work. In addition, he was legally prohibited by the society from producing Bible illustrations for any other publisher. Elsie Anna wood on the other hand, had the foresight to opt for a contract, which gave her royalties on reproductions of her work and not just a one-off payment for each picture. This gave her a steady, if modest income which supported her through her long and productive life. Elsie Anna Wood died in a Norwich nursing home in 1978 but her work lives on, albeit with substantially less public recognition than it deserves. These short notes offer just a brief overview of the artist and a longer article will surface in the near future.
© Dr Sandy Brewer 2008

Related posts:
More 'Elsie Anna Wood' Bible Art
A Gift Returned with Love.