From 1996 onwards, Dutch art historians Marty Bax, Andréa Kroon and Audrey Wagtberg Hansen have realized various projects aimed at drawing attention to the relationship between ‘art & western esotericism’. Because our goals have largely been realized, we feel the time has come to focus on other lacunas in our knowledge of art history. This column therefore marks the end of our joint ‘lobby’ for this fascinating subject.
Art and religion are closely related. Like the main world religions, lesser known religious currents have also provided artists with inspiration. Freemasonry, spiritualism, theosophy and anthroposophy for instance, were relevant to the development of modern art. Within the academic Study of Religions, these organisations are seen as part of western esotericism: an umbrella term for a group of related currents, which date back to the gnosis of Antiquity, the hermetic philosophy of the Renaissance and the ‘occult’ sciences (alchemy, magic, astrology).