Christian Paintings have been associated with the life of the Church since times immemorial. Not only have they ornamented churches but were the only form of art in the Christian world for a long time. Until renaissance the church exercised a complete monopoly over the sphere of Art. Therefore it can be safely said that the era before the renaissance was that of Christian Paintings in Europe.
The Church in Europe was an overwhelmingly powerful enterprise, which exercised control over each and every aspect of Christian living. Therefore Christian Paintings were seen as a propaganda tool of this enterprise. But its truly remarkable that such a sublime school of painting should develop from a doctrine, which had a purely religious base. A painting according to the church “conceals the strength of the Gospel under a coarser, but more expressive form. The picture is to the illiterate what the written word is to the educated."
The Christian Paintings and Native Intelligence
Christian Paintings were supposed to educate the illiterate and coarse Christians with the concepts of Christianity. Therefore there was this need to be simplistic, which ensured that these paintings were devoid of any pretensions. Though the church commissioned most Paintings and the painter had little or no freedom to choose his theme the painter’s talent could not be restricted. "The art of painting” was after all was used for “the service of the Church to depict the sufferings of Christ and of many other models; it also preserves the countenances of men after their death."
The Threat of Heresy
The church was dogmatically obstinate about the depiction of icons in Christian Paintings. Even the slightest of misrepresentation or failure to abide by the doctrine would attract the wrath of the church, and be termed heresy. A slight change in color or the length of the robes was seen as a sacrilege.
The artist did not have the freedom to innovate with the form. He had to negotiate with these network of strict rules and prescriptions to have any kind of artistic freedom
These strict, almost numbing rules resulted in the artist losing interest in his craft sometimes, as is evident in some soulless Christian works.
The Catacomb School of Painting
This Roman Cemetery School of painting was to be soon replaced by the more accomplished Christian school of painting. They were however pleasing and venerable.
This school of painting was the true predecessor to what we now know as Christian Paintings. It originated in Greece and its sole purpose was the glorification of God and his son Jesu s. The focus of Byzantine art was images of God, Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Saints and Martyrs . These paintings were soon seen as objects of Veneration in orthodox churches of Europe.
Christian Paintings in the Modern World
Over the years Christian Paintings have evoked the creative interest of many artists and today they are no longer just commissioned paintings. Individual artists have begun to devote all their talents to Christian Art with remarkable success. The first to do so was an artist called Ron DiCianni , whose 1992 pianting Spiritual Warfare was a roaring success. Other artists like Michael Dudash, Morgan Weistling, Chris Hopkins followed suit and a new sub genre of painting was created. With the success of these artists the commercalisation of Christian Paintings began, and today more and more people are bringing Christian Paintings to their homes and offices to show their appreciation for the genre and more importantly, out of love for the religion called Chritianity.