Let the pictures tell the story

4th March 2005 at 00:00
Dinah Starkey recommends the illustrations in books about Jesus.

The Life of Jesus Through the Eyes of an Artist. Pictures by Paul Forsey Teacher's book by David Barton with Jo Fageant The Bible Reading Fellowship pound;12.99 Teacher's Book pound;11.99

The Jesus Encyclopedia By Lois Rock Illustrated by Peter Dennis Lion Books pound;14.99

When the Oxford diocese was looking for ways to support RE in schools, an artist, Paul Forsey, was commissioned to produce four Advent scenes.

The project proved a success and was extended to all the major events in the life of Jesus. Twenty-two of the paintings, each with an accompanying passage from the Bible, were published by the Bible Reading Fellowship and now form an unusual and beautiful picture book.

Paul Forsey has a very personal vision and his image of Jesus and the disciples is far removed from the long hair and sandals of the Victorian prints. The flat picture plane and disdain for proportion have the feel of a medieval manuscript painting but there's a hint of Picasso (Guernica was one of his influences) and even of Salvador Dali in the deliberate incongruities that lurk demurely within the main pictures.

As a storm blows up on Lake Galilee, the boat rakes across the page at an impossible angle, with a distress flag streaming and a disciple frantically setting off a flare. Vivid, direct and sometimes moving, every picture repays close study. These are illustrations that grow on you and there's plenty to explore.And it is the pictures that tell the story, although the text, taken from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, provides a good straightforward re-telling of each incident, well within the grasp of primary age children.

The book is accompanied by an excellent teacher's guide that provides a longer complementary narrative and a page-by-page commentary on each picture to help children and teachers to get the most out of this rich and strange new version of the life of Christ.

The Jesus Encyclopedia, by contrast, is a much more traditional affair. The focus of each double-page spread is an incident from the New Testament simply told and illustrated with carefully researched, rather wooden images of Christ and his disciples. Accompanying photographs, reconstructions and snippets of information aim to set the stories in historical context. Well produced with maps and diagrams, it is a useful resource for an RE topic about the Bible. But if you're looking for awe and wonder, Paul Forsey's version wins hands down.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today