Heaven on Earth

Painting and the Life to Come

T. J. Clark

Published by Thames & Hudson

In Heaven on Earth T. J. Clark interweaves philosophical interrogation with contemporary art theory.

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The idea of heaven on earth haunts the human imagination. Believers say that the day will come when the pain and confusion of mortal life will give way to a changed community. Such a vision of the world seems indelible. Even politics, to an extent, has not escaped from the realm of the sacred: its dreams of the future still borrow their imagery from the prophets.

In Heaven on Earth, renowned art writer T. J. Clark sets out to investigate the very different ways painting has given form to the dream of God’s kingdom come. He goes back to the late Middle Ages and Renaissance – to Giotto in Padua, Bruegel facing the horrors of religious war, Poussin painting the Sacraments, Veronese unfolding the human comedy. Clark asks if it was to art’s advantage that in an age of enforced orthodoxy (threats of hellfire, burnings at the stake) artists could reflect on the powers and limitations of religion without putting their thoughts into words.

At the heart of the book stands Bruegel’s ironic but tender picture of The Land of Cockaigne and Veronese’s inscrutable Allegory of Love. The story ends with Picasso’s Fall of Icarus, made for UNESCO in 1958, which already seems to signal – perhaps to prescribe – an age when all futures are dead.


Production Details

Published by Thames & Hudson

288 pages

101 illustrations


241 mm x 163 mm