Classical paintings of Jesus Christ emphasize form, simplicity, balance, proportion, and aesthetics. This type of art, such as “Jesus at the Table“, often looks vintage even if painted by a contemporary artist (like me) living in present day. Realism in the portraiture, earth tone hues, and highly detailed compositions are what make classic art rich in color and storytelling.
Jesus Christ remains the “most popular” historical figure of all time, according to several sources that rate such things (it is unknown how accurate rankings are, but when doing a search for art and writings about Jesus, it’s obvious that the rankings are likely accurate). Because people are very familiar with how Jesus is typically painted, an artist is taking a risk when painting Jesus Christ. However, taking risks is how artists grow.
“Nativity” is painted in a traditional way, in the style that one might see on a cover of a Christmas card. Indeed, I have sold several such cards. This traditional style of painting Jesus depicts him as a baby with Mary and Joseph, and is associated with celebrating Christmas. While the figures are somewhat detailed and arranged in a traditional way, the composition is simplistic. This keeps the focus on the figures and the story.
Representational paintings of Jesus take creative license and may be more of a design than a composition. In “Angel Watching over Jesus“, viewers understand that the bundled baby is the Christ child because of the presence of the angel and the golden hues in this painting. This style is very far removed from the classical style, and from the dynamic of painting Jesus as a man instead of as a baby.
Taking a risk as an artist is not only about the subject matter chosen (a religious, historical, or political figure will certainly bring risks), but also in the style of painting. It is presumably less of a risk when an artist paints Jesus as a Christmas baby, than when painting Jesus as a grown man in a classical style, with a composition that symbolizes his teachings.
However, it may surprise you to know that I have received more threats, hate, and crimes committed against me over the paintings of baby Jesus and angels than I have for painting Jesus as a man. I’m not sure what that says about the state of man, but I’ve long realized that I must be willing to be hated. I will not allow the deranged malice of others to stop me from creating. Artists must be brave.