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BYU Museum of Art debuts Old Testament exhibition

By Ashtyn Asay - | May 4, 2022
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"God's Promises to Abram" painted by James Tissot.
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"The Ark Passes Over Jordan" painted by James Tissot.
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"Rebecca Meets Isaac by the Way" painted by James Tissot.
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"Jepthah's Daughters" painted by James Tissot.
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"God Appears to Noah" painted by James Tissot.
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"Daniel in the Lion’s Den" painted by James Tissot and Michel Simondy.

Students and community members can take a walk through biblical times Friday when the Brigham Young University Museum of Art’s Prophets, Priests, and Queens: James Tissot’s Men and Women of the Old Testament exhibition officially opens.

The exhibition will feature 129 watercolor illustrations painted by Tissot, a 19th century French artist. The works depict stories from the Hebrew Bible and were Tissot’s final project before dying in 1902. Parts of the series were finished by other artists after his death.

“Drawing on emerging research about the artist and this ambitious biblical project, Prophets, Priests, and Queens offers new insights into Tissot and the world of nineteenth-century biblical imagery, as well as offering a singular perspective into over a hundred Old Testament stories,” said Ashlee Whitaker, the museum’s religious art curator. “His images are richly detailed, imaginative, colorful, emotive, and thoughtful. We hope our audiences will take the opportunity to come and spend time with these pictures, not once but many times. It is a rare opportunity, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it.”

The exhibition is on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York City, which acquired Tissot’s complete Old Testament series, consisting of 368 paintings, in 1947. The paintings will be on display at the museum throughout 2022.

“This exhibition is the result of several years’ effort to bring the final paintings of James Tissot’s noteworthy artistic career to the Museum of Art,” Whitaker said. “In fact, this exhibition marks only the second large-scale showing of Tissot’s Old Testament in over a century.”

This exhibition will not be the museum’s only tribute to Tissot. On Aug. 1, a color catalog of Tissot’s Men and Women of the Old Testament will be made available, featuring essays by scholars of art history and the Bible. The Museum of Art will hold a symposium on Tissot’s work in October.

“I’m thrilled for visitors to get to know the Old Testament in a whole new way,” said Philipp Malzl, head of education at the Museum of Art, in a press release. “At the same time, I hope visitors will recognize James Tissot for the complex, relentlessly hard working, and deeply fascinating artist that he was — unapologetic in his commitment to a personal artistic vision.”

This exhibition will be free of charge to the public. For those who cannot attend in person, the Museum has created a digital version of the exhibition which will be made available on Friday. For more information on Prophets, Priests and Queens people can visit https://moa.byu.edu/prophets-priests-and-queens/.

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