How do artists depict paradise?

Dr. James Fox

Humans have always speculated about what a perfect world might look like, whether as a reward in the afterlife, part of an origin story like the Garden of Eden, or a real place on Earth. How do we see these ideas play out in the art we create?

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Elysium, the Garden of Eden, Jannah, Valhalla, Heaven - humans have been thinking about the concept of paradise for millennia.

It's an idea that crops up throughout history, in most major religions and in literature around the world in one form or another. And for just as long, humans have been exploring what these paradises might look like, and representing them in art and architecture.

They're so pervasive, in fact, that you'll be astonished at the range and diversity of visual references to paradise in the world around us. For example, did you know that the Forbidden City, with its succession of courts and gateways, was designed that way in an attempt to create a heavenly city on Earth?

All-time favourite Garden Fellow, Dr. James Fox, is an art historian at the University of Cambridge, a curator, an author and an award-winning broadcaster. James joins us in The Garden to explore how humans have attempted to create paradise on Earth through our art.

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Talk outline


50 minutes

What to expect

30 minute talk

20 minute Member Q&A

Dr. James Fox

James fell in love with art at the age of six and hasn't looked back since. He is now an art historian at the University of Cambridge, a curator, an award-winning broadcaster and the author of bestselling book The World According to Colour.

Thank you notes from Garden members

Art & Society Collection

Art is often used as a medium to convey messages and meaning, not just to entertain & delight. Artists play an important role in reflecting and commentating on the societies in which they live. But how does influence society?