Quaker Studies

The Inward and the Outward Eye: Quaker Attitudes to Visual Culture

Quaker Studies (2014), 18, (2), 139–150.

Abstract

The standard account of Quaker dispositions to visual culture is a story of initial proscription and subsequent relaxation. It implies a view of art as a constant state and of Quakerly attitudes shifting around it. This paper offers an alternative interpretation: Christian art is recognized as an inherently contemplative activity. However, with the Renaissance it comes to be regarded more for its outward effect than for its capacity for interior experience. Attention is drawn to the virtuosity of the artist and to surfaces more than to meanings. Until the twentieth century Quaker values were largely preserved by the regulation of behaviour. The recovery of the spiritual capacity of art in Quaker faith and practice is evident in, and owes much to, a number of practising artists including Edward Hicks in Philadelphia and Joseph Edward Southall in Birmingham.

The Inward and the Outward Eye: Quaker Attitudes to Visual Culture

Abstract

The standard account of Quaker dispositions to visual culture is a story of initial proscription and subsequent relaxation. It implies a view of art as a constant state and of Quakerly attitudes shifting around it. This paper offers an alternative interpretation: Christian art is recognized as an inherently contemplative activity. However, with the Renaissance it comes to be regarded more for its outward effect than for its capacity for interior experience. Attention is drawn to the virtuosity of the artist and to surfaces more than to meanings. Until the twentieth century Quaker values were largely preserved by the regulation of behaviour. The recovery of the spiritual capacity of art in Quaker faith and practice is evident in, and owes much to, a number of practising artists including Edward Hicks in Philadelphia and Joseph Edward Southall in Birmingham.


Details

Author details

Homan, Roger