A Curator Among Theologians: Suggested Reading

Editor’s Note: As a continuation of Christopher R. Brewer’s recent series engaging the work of Daniel A. Siedell, and, more specifically, as a sort of response to the final concern raised in “A Response to Siedell’s ‘Art and Culture, or Politics by Other Means–Evangelical Style,” we asked Dan if he might put together a list of suggested reading. For it seems as though one way we might follow Karl Barth’s advice to “precede the other,”[1] as well as David Brown’s advice to spend as much time “listening as in trying to contribute,”[2] might be through reading. Suggested reading lists in the area of theology and the arts abound, and include:

The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews Reading List
Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, Duke Divinity School, Duke University Reading Lists
Byron Borger’s “Selling Books at IAM: and an extended list of books on the arts”
Matthew Milliner’s “The Unmappable Terrain of Christianity and Art”
W. David O. Taylor’s “Top 35 books on theology and the arts

Noticeably lacking, however, are books from the arts side of the theology and the arts conversation, and so Dan’s list is especially helpful in granting access to that part of the conversation. 

Art History and Art Criticism
Thomas Crow, Modern Art and the Common Culture (Yale, 1998).
Erika Doss, Twentieth Century American Art (Oxford, 2002).
James Elkins, Our Beautiful Dry and Distant Texts: Art History as Writing (Routledge, 2000).
James Elkins, ed. The State of Art Criticism  (Routledge, 2007).
Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood (Chicago, 1998).
Donald B. Kuspit, The Critic is Artist: The Intentionality of Art (UMI Research Press, 1984).
Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century (Vintage, 2007).
Harold Rosenberg, The Tradition of the New (1959; De Capo, 1994).
Katy Siegel, Since ’45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art (Reaktion, 2011).
Donald Thompson, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art (Pelgrave, 2010).
Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World (Norton, 2009).
Kirk Varnedoe, Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (Princeton, 2006).

Artist Journals and Biographies
Alex Danchev, Cézanne: A Life (Profile, 2012).
Frank Hoifodt, ed., The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind The Scream (Yale University Press, 2007).

Paul Crowther, Art and Embodiment: From Aesthetics to Self-Consciousness (Oxford, 2001).
Paul Crowther, The Language of Twentieth-century Art: A Conceptual History (Yale, 1997).
William Desmond, Art, Origins, Otherness: Between Philosophy and Art (SUNY, 2003).

I have also found the poet/critic Joseph Brodsky to be one of the most insightful readers of other poets, and so a model for me as a critic. His essays on the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam and the American Robert Frost are classics, and works I return to again and again.

My theological development has focused on the distinction between law and gospel. Luther says that this distinction is what theology is all about, and I think he’s right. And I find this distinction richly suggestive for thinking about artistic practice. The work of Oswald Bayer and Gerhard Ebeling have been most helpful in this regard, as they situate this distinction in creational (Bayer) and existential (Ebeling) contexts.  Moreover, my recent thinking about art has been shaped by vocation, which for Luther, is simply the implication of justification before the world (creation and your neighbor).

Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification (Eerdmans, 2003).
Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way (Eerdmans, 2007).
Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation (Eerdmans, 2008).
Oswald Bayer, A Contemporary in Dissent: Johann Georg Hamann as Radical Enlightener (Eerdmans, 2012).
Gerhard Ebeling, Luther: An Introduction to His Thought (Fortress, 2007).


[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV:1, G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance, eds., G.W. Bromily, trans. (London: T&T Clark, 1956), 675-676.
[2] David Brown, God and Enchantment of Place: Recovering Human Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 2-3.

Image Credit: Daniel A. Siedell



  • Daniel A. Siedell (M.A. SUNY-Stony Brook;Ph.D. University of Iowa) is Lecturer in Christian and Classical Studies at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is also curator of LIBERATE, the resource ministry of Tullian Tchividjian and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Previously he was Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (2007-12) and Chief Curator of Sheldon Museum of Art (1996-2007). He blogs weekly at Patheos.

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1 Comment

  1. says: Marion Lars Hendrickson

    I commend the inclusion of works by Oswald Bayer, not only because of his insightful writing on Lutheran theology, but also because, as you note, he writes so much about “poiesis.” I would also add that “listening” to David Brown is always rewarding.

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