Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) claimed to be an eyewitness to the Apocalypse. Called to be “Servant of the Lord,” he wrote eighteen works in which he defined a new Christianity. While he never formed a church, he distributed his books widely throughout Europe. They stimulated some people to found new religious organizations, some to write in new poetic and literary forms, and others to revolutionize sculpture and painting. These artists found in Swedenborg’s works a vibrant source of a new aesthetic vision. The elements of Swedenborg’s theology that helped to shape that new aesthetic are presented here, as well as the application of different aspects of it in the works of three artists: the English sculptor John Flaxman (1755–1826); the French Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin (1848–1903); and American sculptor Lee Bontecou (b. 1931). Each artist attempts to capture the spiritual reality that Swedenborg portrayed as existing behind and within the natural phenomenal world.
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