Skip to main content

Fruits of the Spirit

A new virtual exhibition and in-person collection trail exploring sacred art and its relation to today’s world will open on 5 December

Issued November 2022

5 December 2022 – 30th April 2023

Devised by the National Gallery and museums throughout the UK, 'Fruits of the Spirit: Art From the Heart' pairs nine pictures from the National Gallery’s collection with nine from partner institutions. The exhibition is inspired by Saint Paul’s description of themes including love, joy, and peace in the Christian Bible.

The paired paintings open up discussions around Saint Paul’s nine positive attributes in his 2000-year-old letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The letter discusses how to build and maintain community in the face of disagreement. Although the list comes from a religious source, the nine attributes are positive and helpful for individuals and communities within both religious and secular contexts.

This virtual exhibition is co-curated by the National Gallery’s 2021–22 Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow Revd Dr Ayla Lepine and Senior Research Curator Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, who leads the Gallery's Art and Religion research strand. This exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events held at the National Gallery and at partner locations across Britain throughout the exhibition period.

Participating organisations come from a range of new and established partnerships from locations and venues as varied as Canterbury Cathedral, The McManus Art Gallery and Museum in Dundee and The Box in Plymouth. The paintings included are similarly diverse, with iconic works in the National Gallery collections (such as Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, and Claude Monet’s Water-Lilies, after 1916) placed in conversation with works by contemporary artists (including Lizzie Jones’s 'Couple', 2005, provided by Southampton City Art Gallery and Ben Hartley’s 'Devon Lane, Westlake', 1968, from The Box in Plymouth). The virtual nature of this exhibition has made it uniquely possible to bring together paintings from these far-ranging institutions into a single accessible space.

The virtual exhibition is combined with a free digital catalogue of essays. Over twenty authors, including curators, artists and community groups, as well as a new poetry commission by Dr Aviva Dautch, explore the importance of the exhibition’s themes, from love and family life to self-control in relation to climate change. Including words from a Nurse-in-Residence, a care-experienced young person and social justice charities, these essays aim to bring voices not normally heard in gallery catalogues to the fore. Creating links between paintings within and beyond the National Gallery and fostering interactions through different perspectives in communities and cultures encourages new ways of seeing and more open ways of engaging with one another. As a digital exhibition, 'Fruits of the Spirit' is freely accessible to both new and regular visitors from the UK and beyond.

Some pairings combine religious narratives with secular scenes, such as The Finding of Moses, early 1630s, by Orazio Gentileschi, and 'Isabella, Duchess of Manchester', 1738, by Andrea Soldi. These works are used to explore the theme of ‘faithfulness’. In the story of Moses, his birth mother places him in a basket in the river to avoid certain death, demonstrating immense faith that her child will survive. Her faith is rewarded, and the National Gallery’s painting depicts the moment of rescue and hope. This maternal faith is also reflected in The Foundling Museum’s portrait of Isabella, Duchess of Manchester, who was instrumental in the formation of the Foundling Hospital. As with Moses, the birth mothers of children given up to the care of the hospital faced heartbreaking decisions that demanded enormous faith and trust. In every community, having faith in others can be vital.

Canterbury Cathedral’s altarpiece, 'Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours', 1928–33, by Winifred Knights, also features in the exhibition. It is a powerful example of religious art by a British woman of the last century. This painting represents ‘peace’. A young woman who arrived in Kent as a refugee reflected on the painting in relation to this theme and identified a strong connection between the altarpiece and her story of family, uncertainty, and courage. Knights’s painting is paired with Claude Monet’s 'Water-Lilies' from the National Gallery’s collection. Monet described this work, painted during the First World War, as a ‘monument to peace’. In her catalogue essay, Revd Dr Ayla Lepine argues that contemplating sacred and secular art and relating it to people’s lives today can inspire us all to work for peace when it is most urgently needed around the world.

This free virtual exhibition also includes paintings by Jan Van Eyck, Vincent van Gogh, Frank Auerbach, Turner, Titian, Ernst Neuschul, Eugène Delacroix, Ron Stenberg, Orazio Gentileschi, Andrea Soldi and Thomas Gainsborough.

Revd Dr Ayla Lepine, 2021–22 Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery, says: ’It is a true joy to bring together diverse works of art from around the UK into new dialogues with the National Gallery’s stellar collection. The digital exhibition’s 18 paintings range across half a century of art history, from van Eyck’s revered and enigmatic 'Arnolfini Portrait' to the contemporary artist Lizzie Jones’s 'Couple', a moving image of two people who have survived a traumatic civil war. I am proud to have worked alongside some of the UK’s most exciting public collections to explore new connections between sacred art and our world today, creating a collaborative, free, and dynamic exhibition for everyone to enjoy. I hope that projects like these, supported by the National Gallery’s Ahmanson programme in art and religion, can encourage us all to open our museum collections to the widest possible audiences, and to build communities that are sources of love, peace, and kindness for all.’

Lawrence Chiles, Head of Digital at the National Gallery, says: ‘We continue to explore the possibilities now open to us to create digital exhibition experiences. 'The Fruits of the Spirit' virtual exhibition has allowed us to bring together paintings from institutions from across the UK that would have been difficult to do physically, and in a more dynamic way than a straightforward website. Online visitors can get a better sense of scale and relationship between the works and hopefully continue the thoughtful dialogue that the overall project has inspired.'

'Fruits of the Spirit' is supported by Howard and Roberta Ahmanson

Image: Winifred Knights, 'Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours', about 1928–33 (detail) Milner Memorial Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. © The Estate of Winifred Knights

Notes to editors

*Participating UK partners

  • The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
  • The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
  • Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury
  • The McManus, Dundee
  • Leicester Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester
  • Ben Uri Gallery & Museum, London
  • The Foundling Museum, London
  • The Box, Plymouth
  • Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton

Image credits

Claude Monet (1840–1926)
Water-Lilies, after 1916
Oil on canvas
200.7 × 426.7 cm
The National Gallery, London

Winifred Knights (1899–1947)
'Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours', c.1928–33
oil (or possibly tempera) on canvas with glazing
73 x 159.7 cm
Milner Memorial Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. © The Estate of Winifred Knights

The National Gallery has worked with Moyosa Media to create the 'Fruits of the Spirit' exhibition. Moyosa Media help clients reinvent themselves for a digitally enhanced world, in which time and place become irrelevant in order to experience brands in a fun and engaging way. They do that by designing and building digital experiences rooted in 3D technologies. They set out to challenge technical feasibility and to exceed expectations of what any digital experience can do to excite and engage people, and provide innovative concepts, based on maximizing fun, engagement, data capture and analytics. For more information, please visit:

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free. More at

More information at
Twitter @nationalgallery
Facebook @thenationalgallery
Instagram #nationalgallery
YouTube The National Gallery

For more information and images

E-mail National Gallery Press Office:

Publicity images can be obtained from