Religious Art

In a tribute to Julien Binford, dated September 5th, 1997, an unnamed relative wrote “I know that he brought joy to the heart of his God, as well as to the hearts of who saw his work, especially the painting in Shiloh Church.”

Binford was a Southern Baptist and, when he moved to Powhatan County, integrated himself into the African American Baptist community and was both devoted to and inspired by the beauty of the rural culture. In the late 1930’s, Binford was commissioned by Shiloh Baptist Church to paint The Lord Over Jordan, a mural over the church’s baptistry that depicts Christ’s baptism. As payment, Binford accepted donations of produce in the place of money. 

Julien Binford, Untitled (Madonna and Child), oil pastel on board, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP122.

Binford’s use of color reflects his religious devotion as well as his storytelling technique – his dark reds and blacks emphasize the sacrifice made by Christ. This can be observed from his work Untitled (Madonna and Child), shown above. While the subject matter is often depicted as a joyous occasion, Binford’s use of dark red invokes the inevitability of Christ’s death. The use of foreboding colors is continued in Untitled (Crucifixion), which displays Christ suspended on a cross stained with his own blood and flanked by a pitch black sky.

Julien Binford, Untitled (Crucifixion), oil pastel on board, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP124.

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