The Story

The Thrivent Collection of Religious Art gallery.
Thrivent Gallery

Making this special collection accessible to all is a part of Thrivent's ongoing commitment to supporting the arts, culture, education and the community.”

When you think of culturally significant art collections, you might think about places like the Louvre in Paris, the Met in New York, or the Art Institute in Chicago. What might not come to mind is an unassuming corporate building in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. That's part of what makes The Thrivent Collection of Religious Art so unique and special. A marvelous collection of original works of art – tucked away in a corporate building, yet easily accessible to anyone interested in art, religion, history or culture.

Many corporations have art collections, but the Thrivent Collection of Religious Art is truly distinctive. With more than 1,200 objects – spanning the 13th to 21st centuries – it includes work by some of the most recognized artists in Western art history, from Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn to Édouard Manet and Grace Hartigan. With public lectures and gallery shows, traveling exhibitions and educational programming, Thrivent strives to make its collection accessible as a cultural resource for communities across the globe.

The Collection of Religious Art is a vibrant expression of Thrivent's fraternal identity. Since its inception, the collection has existed specifically to be a shared educational and spiritual resource for Thrivent members and for the broader community.

For its first 19 years, from 1982 until 2001, the collection was known as the Lutheran Brotherhood Collection of Religious Art. The name changed along with that of the organization when the two fraternal benefit societies Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans merged to create Thrivent Financial.

A fraternal benefit society is a not-for-profit organization that offers insurance products to its members but also promotes the well-being of its members and the public through various educational, social, patriotic, charitable, and religious programs and activities. Members of a fraternal benefit society share a religious, ethnic, or vocational bond. In Thrivent's case, this bond is Christianity.

Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom
Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom
Photo: Rita Reed, Copyright 1993, Star Tribune

It took a small team of dedicated individuals to bring this corporate collection to life. Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom, a retired Lutheran minister and art collector, served as founding curator. Rev. Hillstrom was a connoisseur and recognized collector; his insight into theology and the arts created an inspiring foundation for the creation of the Collection of Religious Art—which was officially established in 1982.

Today, the collection continues to serve as a vital cultural and educational resource for the community, led by Director and Curator, Joanna Reiling Lindell, who oversees dozens of tours and events, lectures and gallery exhibitions each year. The Thrivent Collection of Religious Art has received global, national and local media recognition for its excellence, as well as for its unique focus on religious themes and subjects.

Making this special collection accessible to all is a part of Thrivent's ongoing commitment to supporting the arts, culture, education and the community. We hope you enjoy!

The Thrivent Collection of Religious Art enriches the community by collecting, preserving and making accessible outstanding works of religious art from around the world.

The Art

Artwork

Religious art has held our fascination for centuries. Art with religious subject matter can tell us stories about who we are, what we believe, and what we feel. By retelling familiar biblical stories through the visual arts, artists may dynamically express and reassert their societal and personal beliefs and spirituality.

Many different cultures and religions in the history of the world have expressed their beliefs through art; the Thrivent Collection of Religious Art is focused on themes and subjects related to the Western religious tradition. Because the Thrivent Collection primarily comprises works on paper, this website concentrates on the media of original prints and drawings.

Printed images are important in the history of art and have a distinct history separate from other media. Invented in Northern Europe during the fifteenth century, Western printmaking offered a new and efficient way to make and reproduce visual information. Printed images were affordable and more accessible to a broader segment of the population. Printmaking also offered early modern artists an opportunity to be recognized as stylistically innovative outside the older disciplines of sculpture or painting. Throughout history, collectors have been captivated by this nuanced and varied media.

While religious subject matter is highly important in the history of art and Christianity, the religious print or drawing was never only about religion or theology. As time went on, secular components or little details from daily life were depicted within religious scenes. These features reveal much about the art but also about life at the time of the work's creation.

Accessible, religious prints offered vital means of devotion and even theological education, as the imagery could serve as a universal language. The works featured here have been steadfastly held, studied and used as tools for devotion and prayer as much as they have been admired and cherished as collectable objects and examples of fine art. It is our hope that you, too, can find a measure of inspiration as you experience this art, just as thousands of others have over the centuries.

Joanna Reiling Lindell,
Excerpted from “The Religious Print”