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Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art

Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt
Published by Baker Academic in 2023

Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art provides a valuable Christian framework to traditional art critical practice. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt combines an established framework, repeated themes, and a wide range of examples, resulting in content that is accessible to all readers, including novice art viewers. In her introduction, she proposes a framework which challenges any Christian viewer of art to look and think deeply about the content found within a work as a means of personal and cultural transformation. Weichbrodt argues that culture can be formed through the intentional and method- ical processing of viewing and analyzing art through “generative looking” (14). Taking cues from truths found in Scripture, a viewer can experience personal transformation through active looking, questioning, and consideration of difficult topics presented in a work of art. In a Christian higher education context this book introduces art criticism as a tool for spiritual discipline—developing artists to take their looking and creating seriously. In an art appreciation course this book provides current and relatable themes, making art criticism accessible.

The book is broken into three different sections explaining the process of looking at art to inform our love of God and others. Our definition of art and how the viewer interprets beauty directly influences the way in which artwork is to be understood. In Part 1 Weichbrodt introduces the elements and principles of art as a “toolbox” for recognizing, analyzing, and accessing art’s content (26-43). After describing an artwork utilizing a toolbox of visual communication, the viewer is prompted to refer to their “archive.” Weichbrodt uses the image of an archive to encourage the reader to recognize their experiences and biases, framing the way art is understood (45-65). Lastly, Weichbrodt introduces the concept of a “frame” to understand the work of art’s context (65-82). The context of a work’s presentation is conveyed as the final tool to understand the relationship of the artwork to the viewer.

Weichbrodt spends the rest of her book demonstrating how viewing artwork can be an act of love for both God and humanity. Parts 2 and 3 explore concepts delving into complex narratives found in Scripture—transcendence, worship, lament, and redemption. The book models the toolbox approach introduced in Part 1 by deeply engaging a wide range of historical and contemporary artworks that explore contemporary issues and challenges. The text compares seemingly disparate artworks and themes forcing the reader to think critically about the impact art has on the soul. For instance, in chapter six she references a hyper-realistic work by Margareta Haverman,1 a loosely painted impressionistic piece by Berthe Morisot,2 and a quilt created by Rebecca Davis,3 to examine how each artist captured a different aspect of God’s presence. This examination encourages the reader to ponder God’s vastness seen within the minute and everyday moments. The complexity of human nature is explored through the deep look at an artwork’s content. Weichbrodt encourages the reader not to respond with disillusionment, but to allow the viewing of artwork to be a tool for the Holy Spirit to convict or encourage the heart. By looking deeply at the complexities of the Fall, the reader is led to better understand the depths of forgiveness.

Weichbrodt’s approach to the description and visual analysis of an artwork is aligned with a historic approach to art criticism first introduced by Edmund Feldman in Varieties of Visual Experience.4 Feldman, like Weichbrodt, charges the viewer to engage with prolonged looking to acutely recognize an artwork’s visual elements before analysis or interpretation. The elements and principles of art are the main tools for developing a visual language. Weichbrodt’s emphasis on the ability for art to engage thinking from a unique perspective is supported by the Visual Thinking Strategies project introduced by Project Zero from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.5 These tenets of art criticism have been widely embedded within art education curricula proposed by Arthur Dow from the Getty Center for Education in the Arts.6 While certainly most K-12 public school students have been exposed to the methods described by Weichbrodt, the Christian intention is woven within the approach, providing a fresh purpose to these tools.

Weichbrodt’s approach to context is an important aspect of this text. The book recognizes readers as whole spiritual beings and encourages an embodied activation of the senses to understand an artwork. The viewer’s observations are informed by a unique “archive” or contextual experience. These themes are emphasized not only in Part 1 of the text, but also within the many thematic examples. Though she notes that a viewer’s reflection occurs within a context, caution should be taken to consider how much interpretation of a work should be based solely on one’s cultural experiences. If viewing artwork is done solely from one’s context, doing so ignores other important contributing frameworks of understanding—historical, narrative, artist intent, and intended audience. These factors must not be forgotten when considering a work’s value. Weichbrodt spends some time carefully presenting the historical narrative behind each of the works of art discussed. She presents extensive research from first-hand accounts as well as broader historical records, allowing the reader to look deeply into the complexity of messaging and intentions in each work of art. The author humbly recognizes existing gaps of knowledge, unknown due to details lost to time. An artwork, she says, should act as a mirror to the individual to reflect on our own heart condition. This presentation is a balanced approach to understanding how viewing and discussing art can shape the viewer and influence the viewer’s perspectives on other issues. Weichbrodt skillfully models how to compare art- works from different time periods, made from different materials, for different audiences to understand deeper truths about humanity’s relationship to God. An example of this is her close look at idolatry in chapter four. Here the author leads the reader through a close study of a work by Piet Mondrian7 and a reference to Polykleitos’ representation of an idealized youth.8 After the visual analysis the author asks the reader to self-examine one’s own idols.

Through the framework of toolbox, archive, and frame Weichbrodt introduces the reader to a wide range of real-world issues that can be confronted and discussed through artwork. The examples she uses are diverse in both medium and content. The author provides leading questions for thought and conversation throughout the book. To encourage the reader to contemplate the implications of her model, she provides a link to a website containing high-resolution images where the reader can apply the presented framework of Christian art criticism to other high-resolution images. Overall, the book presents a contemporary model of art criticism from which Christian undergraduate students, art enthusiasts, or dabblers in the arts can spiritually benefit.

Cite this article
Hannah Richardson, “Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 53:2 , 123-126


  1. Margareta Haverman, A Vase of Flowers, 1716, oil on wood, 31 ¼ in. × 23 ¾ in., The Met, New York, NY; see Weichbrodt, Redeeming Vision, 133.
  2. Berthe Morisot, Young Woman Knitting, ca. 1883, oil on canvas, 19 ¾ in. × 23 ⅝ in., The Met, New York, NY; see Weichbrodt, Redeeming Vision, 141.
  3. Rebecca Davis, Quilt, Nine Patch pattern variation, ca. 1846, cotton, 84 ¾ in × 82 ¾ in., The Met, New York, NY; see Weichbrodt, Redeeming Vision, 146.
  4. Edmund Burke Feldman, Varieties of Visual Experience: Art as Image and Idea (New York, NY: Abrams, 1972).
  5. Shari Tishman, “Artful Thinking,” Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2022,
  6. Stephen Mark Dobbs, The DBAE Handbook: An Overview of Discipline-Based Art Education (Santa Monica, CA: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1992).
  7. Piet Mondrian, Lozenge Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray, 1921, oil on canvas, 23 ⅝ in. × 23 ⅝ in., The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; see Weichbrodt, Redeeming Vision, 97.
  8. Copy of work attributed to Polykleitos, Marble head of a youth, ca. 41-54 CE, marble, 11 ¼ in. × 7 ¾ in. × 9 ¼ in., the Met, New York, NY; see Weichbrodt, Redeeming Vision, 98.

Hannah Richardson

Hannah Richardson, Assistant Professor of Art Education and Pre-Art Therapy, Taylor University.