TESTAMENT // THURSDAY, SEPT 28  1:10-2:20PM (RM 201)

Hans Rookmaaker: An Open Life in the Arts
Laurel Gasque

H. R. (‘Hans’) Rookmaaker, the Dutch art historian whose life spanned a mere fifty-five years (1922-1977), made an enormous impact on artists and art students seeking spiritual meaning and social justice in the midst of the twentieth century. Since his death the arts scene among Christians of almost all traditions and denominations in Europe and the Anglophone world has changed significantly and been enriched for the better.

Rookmaaker’s impact in this achievement is legendary, but some of its reception today is also ‘legendary’ and distorted, especially that he was not a friend of modern art and that his interpretation was deeply ‘flawed’ and even uncharitable. This seems to be a point of view formed from a partial reading of his works limited to those published in his life-time in English and not from his Complete Works in six full volumes translated and published in English posthumously. This view needs to be critically engaged and the record clarified for a more accurate understanding of Rookmaaker’s specific Reformed theological perspective and spirituality along with his general enhancement to the discussion of the arts and faith.

This illustrated presentation aims to animate not only Rookmaaker’s contributions to the visual arts and the substantive impact that they are still having on artists in Europe and around the globe (a popular song in Brazil is entitled ‘Rookmaaker’), but also his important contribution to the history and understanding of jazz, blues, black spirituals and protest songs which is less known.


Laurel Gasque, BA (UCLA), MEd (Eastern University) teaches art history at Trinity Western University as well as arts and theology at Regent College, Vancouver, BC, where she pioneered the college’s Art Program. She is Associate Editor of ArtWay (www.artway.eu), an international, in-depth website for congregations and individuals linking the visual arts and faith. She is the author of Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H. R. Rookmaaker (Crossway, 2005) and numerous essays and articles. She serves on the board of New College Berkeley (a centre affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California) and recently retired from the board of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion after serving on it for over a decade.