In My Ideal Foyer. . . .

Eugène Burnand, “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection” (1898)

Fair warning: this is going to be one of those posts where I ask you to do something at the end–to post YOUR ideal foyer art (or, at least, a link to your ideal foyer art if there are copyright issues) and explain why. Because I really want to know. And because I want to document a space on the Internet where BCC’s legions of readers register their preferences for the LDS foyers of the future.

I’ll start. The artwork itself is an easy call. I actually do have a favorite work of devotional art, which is reproduced above: Eugène Burnand’s 1898 masterpiece-ette, “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection.” I love this painting and try to talk about it any chance I get. It would, hands down, be the first print that I put in any building that I wanted to have spiritual thoughts in.

Why? That is somewhat harder. But I will give it a try.

It begins with movement. Everything about this painting moves–not just Peter and John, who appear to be running as fast as they can. The ground looks like it is moving. And the clouds. This is a painting that portrays a world, and two very important people in it, in motion.

And it is not a peaceful or comforting motion either. It is a frantic, nervous, and almost desperate motion. Peter and John are running the tomb–not because they know that Jesus is there, but because they hope he is there. They have been told by women they trust that the tomb is empty and that the Savior has risen. But it is almost too much to believe. But if it is true, it is the single most important thing that has ever happened in their lives.

This, to me, is the essence of faith. It is not a knowledge of a sure thing. It is a desperate running towards something that we have heard about–perhaps all of our lives–and desperately hope to be true. If we are doing it right, it is not a passive hope, but an anxious and even a desperate hope. Maybe our lives don’t end when we die. Maybe we can be reconciled to a perfect and loving God. Even if we don’t know for sure, the news is something worth breaking a sweat for.

But it is also clear that Peter and John are running for different reasons, which makes sense when we read the Gospels. John is running because he loved his master, profoundly and absolutely, and was loved the same way in return. He appears to be praying as he runs because he hopes it is true. Peter, on the other hand, has reasons to be nervous about seeing Jesus again, after having denied him three times just days before. But Peter has also (I imagine) been consumed with guilt over his failure, and Christ’s return might give him the opportunity to make amends for his actions. Peter is running for a second chance.

Together, I think, Peter and John capture the range of reactions that almost all of us, to some degree, have to Christ: profound reverence on one end of the continuum, and unbearable guilt on the other. And it is OK that our feelings are mixed, that our motives are both selfish and altrustic. Because Peter and John are going in the same direction, at the same speed, to the same place.

But what I like most about this work is that it is entirely ABOUT Jesus, but it is not an image OF Jesus. We don’t have to worry about whether Christ is black or white or brown because His physical appearance is not important. Everything about Christ conveyed by the painting has to be derived from the effect that He has on his followers. And that may be the best way of all to depict Christ, both on our walls and in our lives.

So that’s mine. What are yours?


  1. The first one that pops into my head is “Jesus and the Angry Babies” by Brian Kershisnik. I think it would bring so much comfort and maybe a smile for real families everywhere.

  2. Excellent choice! I fell in love with that painting of Peter and John many years ago when I came across it in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris on a trip there with my Art University class. So pleased to see it had a similar impact on you.

  3. Lesli Summers-Stay says:

    I actually really like the depictions of Christ by Heinrich Hoffman, and also to a lesser degree the depictions by Carl Heinrich Bloch. I noticed there was only one woman among the choices for foyer art, and her artwork makes me feel a little nauseated, unfortunately. I 100% disagree with the idea of mandating only a few ill chosen paintings that can be in the foyer, for many reasons. It reminds me of when Elder Packer gave a conference talk delineating what is appropriate music for sacrament meeting, and now, even so many years later, many stake presidents and bishops only allow hymns in the LDS hymbook to be sung in sacrament meeting. This is like that, only with visual art. Minerva Teichert’s Christ with Mary and Martha would be my first choice for art in the foyer, but I also like any of Teichert’s depictions of Christ. (this is Lesli Summerstay, but it may label me as my husband, Doug)

  4. Second vote for Minerva Teichert – her Rescue of the Lost Lamb is my very favorite painting of Christ:

  5. Just poking around and see that Rembrandt’s “Simeon Holding the Christ Child” is marvelous.

  6. Robert Bennett says:

    My foyer would be Marc Chagall’s Stained Glass Windows of Israel’s 12 Tribes in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Medical Center.

  7. Robert Bennett says:

    If Mike wants an uncomfortable image of what it means to be a disciple of Christ you could also go with Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of St. Peter. Since it is technically not Christ on the cross maybe it can get past the church’s prohibition against crosses.

  8. Katie M. says:

    I really enjoyed and found stirring and edifying your write-up on the Peter/John painting. Having never seen it before, I like it very much.

    My personal choice is Caravaggio’s Conversion on the Way to Damascus. It captures perfectly the kind of charismatic, ecstatic awe that should attend every true conversion, and I have it hanging in my home as a reminder to always seek to recapture and carry forward that feeling throughout my life.

  9. Reproductions of Rothko are sad. And his art is definitely way more sanctuary than foyer.

    But I’ve seldom found an artist who has spiritually challenged me and elevated me like Mark Rothko.

  10. Lesli Summers-Stay says:

    I forgot to say why I would choose Minerva Teichert’s Christ with Mary and Martha. Because it is by a woman is one reason. And because it depicts women as main characters. I think we as women in the church need more heros, depictions of, and stories about women. Just like it’s understandable to a certain extent that people want a depiction of Christ that they can relate to, women need depictions of women to look up to spiritually. And Christ is such and important part of our faith, I think it’s important to see ourselves with him, and ministered to by him. I like that Christ has so much of an obvious feminine side in Teichert’s depictions. I like that this painting in particular reminds us that Christ taught (radically for the time) that women’s higher calling is learning the best things, and that women do not just exist to fulfill the traditional female gender roles. I especially think this would be an important thing to remind men and women of in Mormon churches, as the Mormon church is a bit problematic in teaching that women have very carefully and narrowly defined roles in the church.

  11. nobody, really says:

    I vote for “Adoration of the Magi” by Vasco Fernandes, a Portuguese painter from the 1500s. It clearly shows Samuel the Lamanite as a Tupinamba tribal member from what is now Brazil, visiting the Christ child with the other wise men. Of course, his earring would have to be removed before the painting could be considered appropriate.

  12. I’d probably first go for Minerva Teichert’s Rescue of the Lost Lamb as well, or her painting, Christ Blesses the Nephites ( I love the soft tones and beauty of her style in general, and especially with portraying the Christ. I do also like Sopheap Nhem’s Early Morning with the Savior ( Finally, I would love a reproduction/image of the ancient work from Dura-Europos of Jesus healing the paralytic because of the simplicity and historicity of it (

  13. Nancy, I love it! Definitely made me smile. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Michael, this reminds me that about 15 years ago, I was visiting a mission in San Diego, and it had a stunning version of the Stations of the Cross. IIRC, it was just lines, mostly a cross in different directions. And it was so powerful. I haven’t been able to figure out who the artist was, or to see it again, but something like that would be amazing.

  15. Mortimer says:

    Nancy, that’s wonderful!
    Lesli, Preach! <3

    I want to see local lds artists inspired to paint, sculpt, and use other mediums to provide inspired art for their wards! I want originals and high quality reproductions of church’s international art competition to cycle through meetinghouses all over the world.

    I want there to be a calling of “meetinghouse art curator” to select, frame/display, hang, and rotate and bear testimony about what is being shared.

  16. Mortimer says:

    Just as we have ward and stake members volunteer to play musical pieces in sacrament meeting, I want people to volunteer and be called to create art for the buildings, for the various rooms and the foyer. I want to see people develop and share their talents and testimonies- children, high schoolers, adults, seniors, those with special needs, etc.

  17. I would like to see “Christ in Gethsemane,” by Emile Wilson, and LDS artist in Sierra Leone. To see it, scroll to the bottom of this page:

  18. Another one I like is “Early Morning with the Savior,” by Sopheap Nhem, a Cambodian Latter-day Saint:

  19. Mark B. says:

    Caravaggio’s “The Calling of St. Matthew.” Of course, it would need to be full-size, so we’d have to raise the roofs of all those claustrophobia-inducing church buildings first. And that would be a good thing. Maybe we could work on the art and the architecture at the same time.

  20. Lesli Summers-Stay says:

    a second vote for Mortimer’s ideas!

  21. I’m a big fan of the faceless expression of faith found in the very large painting of the “woman with an issue of blood” reaching to touch Jesus’ fringes. This painting is in the newly constructed Duc In Altum chapel at ancient Magdala.

  22. your food allergy is real says:

    Rembrandt “Return of the Prodigal Son”
    One of the most stunning paintings I’ve ever seen

  23. Michael Austin should get more comments says:

    Your selection of Eugene Burnand’s painting hangs in my dining room. John’s clasped hands and Peter’s over his heart is a wonderful depiction of what and extraordinary hope looks like to me. Emotional reminder of a hope in Easter’s victory.

    Burnand’s parable renderings are very powerful, I particularly enjoy the prodigal’s father shading his brow with his hand- and peering into “a long way off”, would work very well to have on one side of the foyer and Peter and John on the other.

    Fransico de Zurbaran’s Agnus Dei hangs over my fireplace in a weathered wood frame.
    For me- the lamb’s face looks like what it feels like to choose Christ.

    My phone screen is Caspar David Friedrich’s “Solitary Tree”. It harder to see Christ in the painting but a very accurate depiction of what it looks like to choose Him, Isaiah 53 phrases bubble to mind looking at it.

  24. Robert Zund’s The Road to Emmaus speaks to me. The presentation of the beauty of nature, contrasted with the focus of both travelers on Christ…I love it.
    And +1 for Burnand’s painting above. Another of my favorites.

  25. MrShorty says:

    I’m not sure if this adds anything, but it occurred to me that what would really strike me if some of these suggestions ever showed up in the foyer is that they would be different from the prints that I currently encounter in the Church. The correlated list of 22 includes a few that are new to me, but most of them are the same paintings that I have grown up with in the Church. Rather than breeding contempt, my familiarity in this case breeds apathy. Seen that same picture in different contexts many times in the last 50 years, so nothing new to see here, and I am likely to completely pass over the picture.

    I recognize that some of this is on me. I can, if I choose to, engage a familiar painting that I have seen every week for the last 50. But my tendency is to pass over the familiar.

    I don’t have a specific recommendation. If I want the painting(s) in the foyer(s) to impact me, I might suggest a broad collection in a variety of styles with a variety of themes on a rotation. That way, I can occasionally be surprised when I enter the foyer by something new on the wall and engage with it.

  26. Jeremiah S says:

    I like the idea of having paintings that depict different parts of Christ’s life.

    I particularly love the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and her encounter with Jesus. There are many good depictions of this from different time periods in art history, and by LDS artists.

  27. Breaching Whale says:

    I would love to see Journey of the Magi by James Tissot. It has a Christ theme, but Christ is not pictured. It is a realistic depiction of the middle east, including clothing, scenery and people of color. It is quite different from what we normally see in our churches – I get tired of the sameness. And it includes camels. I love camels.

  28. Let’s not forget the other part of the foyer decree: the part about cleaning the dang thing up so it doesn’t have a coat rack housing a cardboard box acting as the Lost and Found of Hot Wheels and old coloring books, nor a pile of 15-year-old Ensigns and two-tone Gospel Doctrine manuals from 1983.

    I think we can all get behind that.

  29. nobody, really says:

    Travis, those Eagle Scout Plaques/Plagues will have to come down as well. Imagine telling someone twenty-five years ago that the day would come that not only would Scouting not be the “activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood”, but that every Scouting logo and symbol would be expunged.

  30. nobody, really: They don’t have to be expunged; they just won’t be in the foyer. Most buildings already have that sort of plaque display near the bishop’s office rather than in the foyer, which seems like a better place anyway.

    I wonder whether this might create issues for very small buildings which basically consist of just one hallway and several multi-purpose rooms, one of which serves as the chapel. There might not be much other space to put bulletin boards, plaques, and such. But that seems like an edge case; not a lot of buildings are that tiny.

  31. Jack Hughes says:

    I would love to see a version of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. There are lots of versions out there, but Rembrandt’s is probably the most well known. This is the oft-forgotten epilogue to the Christmas story. To me, the most significant miracle of the Nativity is that the infant Christ was able to escape the massacre. If it were up to me, I would much rather see paintings depicting episodes from Christ’s life and ministry rather than the portraits or mythical angelic depictions of Him.

  32. I’m a fan of stained glass windows. First Baptist in Montgomery, Alabama has a great set that I think inspiration could be drawn from:

  33. Justyouraveragemormon says:

    I personally love The Nativity by Brian Kershisnik.

  34. Travis: “I wonder whether this might create issues for very small buildings which basically consist of just one hallway and several multi-purpose rooms, one of which serves as the chapel. There might not be much other space to put bulletin boards, plaques, and such. But that seems like an edge case; not a lot of buildings are that tiny.”

    Especially outside of the US, many buildings are like this!

  35. dragonfly says:

    White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall

  36. Peter and John running, hangs in my dining room.

    I spent $80 dollars on it as a poor college student in the basement of the byu bookstore, then carried it with me to a civil engineering evening class- weird looks were given and I endured them, because I love the painting.

    Burnand’s renderings of the parables are wonderful as well.

    One wall of a foyer with Peter and John running and the opposite wall with Burnand’s interpretation of the prodigal’s father, (the father’s hand shading his brow looking “a far way off”) would create a welcome room to enter a church, or wait on the sacrament because you were late, or had to step out to wrangle small kids. The Father looking on one side and Peter and John running on the other look like good limits for what occurs in that room.

    Above my fireplace is a weathered wood framed print of Agnus Dei. Choosing Christ is a fluid concept; and the expression on the lamb’s face is a more accurate portrayal of what that feels like, than any image has evoked in me.

    I also really enjoy Caspar David Friedrich’s Solitary Tree. Intended nuanced meaning saturates the painting and looking at it is like reading scripture to me. The eccentric by definition don’t populate the middle of the curve, so unless you want more weird looks from the civil engineering class, I shouldn’t make the call on foyer paintings.

  37. lastlemming says:

    This one is hanging in New York, but I saw a similar one in Berlin and it definitely got my attention. Even if the Church broadens its list, however, I’m sure this will never be on it.

  38. Any head of Christ by Rembrandt
    Etchings of Christ by Rembrandt
    Any one Of a large number of narrative ( scenes from Christ’s life )images by Kirk Richards ,not specific and focused on the light in the image rather than a detailed depiction of a particular phenotype of Christ
    Carl Bloch , hang more than one painting by the same artist
    Yes ,Minerva
    Yes to a series of Tissot’s New Testament water colours ( often used in church publishing

  39. Not a Cougar says:

    Liz Lemon Swindle’s Be It Unto Me. Mary’s face in the painting is simply haunting.

  40. richellejolene says:

    Thanks for sharing, Michael. Your thoughts on this are lovely, and good for me to hear.

    I’m with @mathdads about stained glass. One memory that stays in my mind about a time when LDS Church art had a stirring effect on me was when I visited the Palmyra temple as a teenager and sat observing the Sacred Grove-themed stained-glass artwork. I love trees, and they hold a lot of religious meaning (the Tree of Life, the Sacred Grove, etc). It’s another example of something that points to the Savior rather than depicting him directly, which is almost always more spiritually efficacious for me.

  41. Sorry friends I have to disagree.
    I prefer my humans in a little more substantial state.
    Everything Minerva paints is in fact and in concept watercolor. Mushy and nondescript.
    Every. Single. One. Of her paintings leave me with a feeling similar to lethargy. It’s hinting at something but it’s not indicative enough of what the hint is aiming at.

  42. Carl Bloch’s “An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane” moved me so much I had to purchase a copy for my study. I wished that I could have been there to comfort Him.

  43. I think reproductions of James Christensen’s art in our foyers would be wonderful. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Touching the Hem of God
    Faith, Hope and Charity
    Ten Lepers
    The Widow’s Mite

  44. Foyer art is a worthwhile discussion topic. But the timing is ironic. The pendulum was already swinging to home church/Come Follow Me prior to the coronavirus quarantine. Now ward buildings and temples are mostly closed. Who knows what the future holds? In the mean time, pick your own art work for your home church. But here is one of my favorites: Madonna and Child by Orazio Gentileschi, the one with Mary’s cheek resting on Jesus’ head.

  45. Hymnnut says:

    My foyer would have only one piece of art. Christ In a Red Robe by Minerva Teichert. I’d get the biggest one you can hang – ceiling to floor.

  46. Carolee says:

    My experience is similar to others who have said that familiarity evokes apathy. Some of the paintings on the church list are so familiar that I don’t really look at them, let alone ponder them. One of my favorite works when visiting the current BYU Museum of Art exhibition “Rending the Heavens” was a symbolic work by Richmond titled “Exchange No. 8.” The nature of the work encouraged me to stop and think about the atonement. And I like the recommendations others here have mentioned that suggest multi-cultural representations. When I lived in Africa the buildings we met in were so basic there was no art hanging on the walls, but I’d love them to be able to display some art that included faces like those worshipping there. And I really like the Burnand painting of the disciples racing to the tomb — in part because of the emotion expressed in the work, but also because it reminds me of the scripture that always makes me chuckle where John feels the need to state that he won the foot race.

  47. Melanie Sansom Smith says:

    I love Jorge Cocco Santángelo’s sacrocubism paintings because they are abstract and move the viewer’s attention from superfluous details to the the sacred events themselves. I have a particular (perhaps perverse) affinity for “Fear Not, It Is I” because of its invitation to leave the boat and join Christ (as opposed to the General Conference messages to “stay in the boat”).

  48. Ostrich says:

    I saw Aimé Morot’s “The Good Samaritan” for the first time over the holidays. It was moving to me on a variety of levels, one of them being the frequent grittiness of actual discipleship. It would be too intense for primary children though.

  49. Shhhhhhhhh...... says:

    Murillo’s Adoration of the Shepherds.
    This is what I see when I read 1 Ne 11:16. Plus there are lots of technical reasons I’d like to see this in the foyer.

  50. Ender2k says:

    “Come Follow Me” by James T. Harwood (impressionism, color, the invitation):

    “Christ in His Red Robe” by Minerva Teichert (I just… and when I saw it in person, I was speechless. I love this one):

    “The Hand of God” by Yongsung Kim (several layers of symbolism, It was a gift during a particularly hard time. I love the reference to 1 Cor 13:12, but also Matt 14:30-31):

    “Christ in Gethsemane” by Harry Anderson (My dad had a huge framed print of this in his office my whole life–it’s the piece I have the earliest memories of, and it reminds me of so many things my father taught):

    (I just LOVE how much link rot there is now that decades of links are broken).

  51. The Burnand has been one of my favorite paintings since I first encountered it in the Orsay decades ago. I love your analysis of it: spot on. I’d love to see it in our foyer.
    A long time ago, I made a virtual advent calendar with 25 pieces of art that evoke the wonder of Advent for me. This photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron is my favorite depiction of the Nativity:
    I love most of J. Kirk Richards’s work and am surprised not to see him included in the comments here.

  52. Bruegel’s “Adoration of the Magi” (1564) is wonderfully complex, among other things contrasting two old, kneeling, disgusting white kings with a young, clear-eyed, standing black king. A painting like this invites thought, while many devotional paintings simply remind a viewer of feelings they have had. Plus Bruegel’s humor! What if a painting in the foyer made us smile?

  53. carolannistan says:

    I want more depictions of women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

    Love One Another by Emma Taylor does that.

    In Their Image by Caitlin Connolly

    I wish when the LDS church bought the building from a Black Baptist church had not covered this Last Supper frieze.

    And @toddvcall–watercolor is too mushy? I’m sad that so many of our depictions in the Come Follow Me manual have bulging-muscled Book of Mormon men. Sheesh.

    Also, why are there 3 Jon McNaughton paintings in the Come Follow Me manual this year? It seems really inappropriate for how political his other art is.

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