Looking at Stories

Genesis Stories in Art

  • Jacob’s Blessing

    We are still in the early chapters of Genesis, and we have visited the theme of ‘brothers’ several times already. We’ve talked about Cain versus Abel, we’ve looked at the trouble among Noah’s three sons, and we saw what happened

  • Rebekah at the Well: A compositional study

    After the death of Abraham’s wife Sarah (Genesis 23), the focus of the story shifts to the next generation: their son Isaac and his wife Rebekah. In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his most trusted servant to find a wife for our second patriarch, and that scene is the subject of one of my favorite paintings.

  • Abraham and Isaac: The ultimate sacrifice

    The story of Abraham and Isaac is one of the most frustrating and fascinating stories in the bible. It’s frustrating because God gave Abraham an impossible task, and we’ll never know what would have happened if an angel had not interceded at the last minute. It’s fascinating for many, many reasons including the fact that artists nearly always depict the exact same moment of this complex story.

  • Abraham and Hagar: Ensuring domestic tranquility

    Abraham is the first common ancestor of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims, and his stories in the bible are among the most fascinating and complex. In Genesis 21, the patriarch of three faiths finds himself caught between his wife, her maid, and their two sons. Abraham faced an unpleasant domestic dispute, and we are reminded daily of the dire consequences. What happened so long ago that we are still feeling the effects every day?

  • Lot and his Daughters: A story that couldn’t get any creepier, or could it?

    The less said about the story of Lot and his daughters the better because this is a super-creepy story. Of course, some painters managed to make this scene much creepier than it needed to be. So what’s the deal here? In Genesis 19, Lot and his daughters were saved by God from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and they ended up living in a cave. Lot’s daughters found a “brilliant” solution to the procreation problem since all of the eligible bachelors had been destroyed. They got their father drunk to preserve his ignorance, and they slept with him.

  • Cain and Abel, and the sons of Noah: Stories about brothers, and more shameful nudity

    Cain and Abel were brothers. God favored Abel, so Cain killed Abel. I know very little about the very complicated relationships between brothers so I won’t say anything here about competition, favoritism, jealousy or the inability of primitive men to express their emotions and deal with their feelings non-violently.

  • Adam and Eve: A story about the shame of nudity

    “In the beginning” God created the world, including the first man and the first woman. If you read through a few more books of the Old Testament and do the math, this happened about 6,000 years ago, which doesn’t make any sense AT ALL, but we can talk about that later.

See more Genesis Stories in Art

Comparing Stories

See more Comparing Stories in Art


In December 2012, I began writing a monthly series of articles on biblical and mythological stories and how they are depicted in art, drawing on 'Stories in Art', my searchable database of paintings that tell stories. Click here to read more about this blog.