Today the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is wrapping up a four-month-long exhibition titled “Divine Beauty: From Van Gogh to Chagall and Fontana,” which features over one hundred works of religious art from 1850 to 1950. Organized jointly by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Archdiocese of Florence with the collaboration of the Vatican Museums, the exhibition shows that sacred themes were still being developed in the modern period.
The works featured in the promotional video above provide a sense of the range of styles and subjects represented: they are, in order, Pietà by Vincent Van Gogh; Saint Sebastian by Gustave Moreau; The Angelus by Jean-François Millet; Crucifixion by Renato Guttoso; White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall; Prayer by Felice Casorati; Madonna II by Edvard Munch; a 1947 study for the Crucifixion by Graham Sutherland; The Holy Family by Fillia; Flagellation of Jesus Christ by William-Adolphe Bouguereau; and The Annunciation by Vittorio Corcos.
Also included in the exhibition are works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Odilon Redon, Max Ernst, and Stanley Spencer—masters of international renown.
One fact of note is that in almost all cases, these artists were working autonomously—that is, not by church commission—and yet they chose to take up Christian subject matter, presumably because there’s something in it they found compelling.
To view a full list of works (with thumbnail images) as well as commentary on the three most famous ones, download the press kit.
Here’s some coverage from the Lorenzo de’Medici Institute—a school I attended for a semester back in 2009! I walked by the Palazzo Strozzi every day on my way to class.