Session at College Art Association Annual Meeting, New York City, February 13 - 16, 2019

Organizer: Anne Greeley (Indiana Wesleyan University)

Over the past two decades, the long-presumed secularity of modern art has been called increasingly into question. Numerous scholars, from Sally Promey, to Jonathan Anderson and William Dyrness, to Thomas Crow, have challenged the secularization theory promulgated by art historians during the latter half of the twentieth century. Though the academy no longer finds it “inadmissible,” as Rosalind Krauss once did, to connect the spiritual with the avant-garde, and while many religious impulses can be discerned throughout the field of modern art, it is nevertheless the case that many modern artists rejected religion outright––though some only temporarily. This panel aims to build on the discussion initiated by Jeffrey Abt in his 2014 panel on “Religion and the Avant-Garde.” It seeks to further clarify modern art’s relationship to religion by examining the lives and work of certain “modernist prodigals,” who during a period of religious apathy or disbelief made significant contributions to modernism before turning, or returning, to organized religion. If art can be said to constitute a mode of thought, and if thought is radically altered through religious conversion, then what might a study of the works of such artists, “pre-” and “post-” conversion, reveal about the perceived compatibility of modern art (or of certain iterations or aspects thereof) with a religious worldview? Alternatively, what might it reveal about an artist’s faith?

Possible artists to consider include, but are not limited to: Hugo Ball, Paul Cézanne, William Congdon, Albert Gleizes, Alfred Manessier, Ludwig Meidner, Gino Severini, and Jan Verkade.

Please email Anne Greeley ( by August 6, 2018 with a paper title, abstract (max. 500 words), and CV.