The Latter-day Saints and “Stalinist Art” Revisited (Part Three)

The Latter-day Saints and “Stalinist Art” Revisited (Part Three) September 1, 2018


Barsch, Wulf. Painting.
Wulf Barsch, “The Ascension of Isaiah”
(I have been unable to find copyright information regarding this image of a work by a prominent contemporary LDS artist whom I admire, so, if anybody who holds copyright on it wishes to contact me, that would actually put my mind at ease.)


A few folks seem to be powerfully disinclined to follow the argument set forth in my prior posts “The Parthenon of the South Pacific?,”  “The Latter-day Saints and ‘Stalinist Art’ Revisited (Part One?),” and “The Latter-day Saints and “Stalinist Art” Revisited (Part Two).”


So — still motivated, of course, by my characteristic ungovernable rage — I’ll try to spell part of that argument out a bit more clearly, in hopes that, even though it be plainly against their wills to do so, they’ll perhaps be able to grasp what I’m saying.


My contention (on this particular point) is that the exterior form of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple — which, for reasons best known to them, they wish to insist on pronouncing architecturally “Stalinist” — represents a stylized echo of such earlier temples as Kirtland and Nauvoo (which, in a much grander revisiting, echoed Kirtland) and St. George (which obviously echoes Nauvoo).  And all of these stand (albeit with some undeniable modifications) squarely in the tradition of the familiar church architecture of their era.  Here are a few examples of that architectural tradition, mostly from Ohio, with some from Vermont, that could be muliplied indefinitely (but to no real purpose, my point having already been made):


Redjar's Cornwall
Cornwall Congregational Church, in Cornwall, Vermont, dates to 1803.
(Photo by Redjar at English language Wikipedia)


Boardman Park OH Episcopal church
St. James Episcopal Church, in Boardman Park, Ohio, was originally constructed in 1828.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Newfane, VT white church
First Congregational Church, in Newfane, Vermont, was built in the 1830s
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)


Rome Center Presbyterian
The Rome Presbyterian Church, in Rome Center, Ohio, was completed in 1836.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


1847 Ohio church
The First Congregational Church of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, was completed in 1847.
(Wikimedia CC public domain photo)


An 1847 Ohio Catholic church
St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church, in Huron County, Ohio, was also built in 1847.
(Wikimedia CC public domain image)


Not THE St. Peter's, but A St. Peter's.
St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Darke County, Ohio, dates to 1850.
(Wikimedia CC public domain photo)


Sharon Moravian Church, in Tuscarawas, Ohio, dates to 1857.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)


1858, Methodist, Ohio
Bigelow United Methodist Church, in Portsmouth, Ohio, was completed in 1858.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)


In Kirtland, no less!
Old South Church, in, of all places, Kirtland, Ohio, was built in 1859.
(Wikimedia CC public domain)


There’s absolutely nothing “Stalinesque” about these Ohio and Vermont churches, and there is no need to invoke “Stalinism” in order to account for the temple architecture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that grew out of this American religious-architectural tradition.  A longish nave with a tall spire mounted at the front of the structure?  That’s as American as can be.


Of course, the design of any given temple will obviously be affected by the culture and environment of the architect who designs it, interacting with the culture, environment, and wishes of those who commission it.  Here, for example, is a clear illustration of that point, involving a very different architectural tradition:


Canada's first temple
The Cardston Alberta Temple, which was dedicated in 1923, was the first temple built in Canada. (


I’m a very enthusiastic fan of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.  So it’s not coincidental that the 1923 Cardston Albert Temple is one of my favorite Latter-day Saint temples, since it’s an exceptional example of influence from the Prairie School of architecture that is associated first and foremost with his name.  Compare the Cardston Alberta Temple to the specimens below (which, again, could be multiplied with such further examples as Dwight H. Perkins’s famous Carl Schurz High School, in Chicago’s Irving Park, and Wright’s own Robie House, in Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side):


Emil Bach's place
Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1915 house for Emil Bach     (Wikimedia Commons public domain)


Wright's Oak Park masterpiece
The Unity Temple, in Oak Park, Illinois, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed around 1908     (Wikimedia CC public domain)


Inside the Unity Temple
Anybody familiar with the interior of the Cardston Alberta Temple won’t fail to notice the similarities in this, the interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple.
(Wikimedia CC public domain image)


In the case of the Cardston Alberta Temple, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School of architecture are an obvious influence.  Stalinism, though?  Again . . . umm, not so much.


Posted from Seaside, Oregon



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