"The Vision of Isaiah"
57x72inches, oil on canvas, 2006
Collection of The Duke Divinity School
To view the painting in person, inquire with the Duke
Divinity School office, (919) 660-3400
Source Text
“In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was
sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the
Temple. 2Hovering around him were mighty seraphim,
each with six wings. With two wings they covered their
faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the
remaining two they flew. 3In a great chorus they sang,
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is
filled with his glory!" 4The glorious singing shook the
Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was
filled with smoke. 5Then I said, "My destruction is sealed,
for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I
have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!" 6Then one of
the seraphim flew over to the altar, and he picked up a
burning coal with a pair of tongs. 7He touched my lips with
it and said, "See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your
guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven." Isaiah 6, 1-7

The painting, “The Vision of Isaiah”, depicts the moment
when a seraph touches Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal.
This powerful passage of scripture lends itself well to the
medium of painting because a single image tells the story,
yet tells more than just the story. The heavenly bright
being descending to Isaiah conveys the truth that every
good thing, including salvation, comes from above, from
something stronger than mortal man. The story also acts
as a powerful metaphor of the gospel. Commentaries on
the passage say that the burning coal and smoke-filled
temple would have been signs of condemnation and
judgment. Instead, miraculously, the burning coal touches
Isaiah’s lips and he is cleansed, echoing the hymn, “…’
twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my
fears relieved”. Although the painting as a whole is from
imagination, many parts are based on painting studies
done by the artist on site. For instance, the temple with its
massive pillars rising out of deep grass is based on the
ruins of the Roman Temple, Paestum. The mountain
landscape is based on studies from the artist’s home in
North Carolina. The distant islands are based on paintings
of the rocky coast of California. The great curtains from
the temple entrance represent the spirit of God. They flow
through the space and lovingly envelope Isaiah. The
curtain also references the torn temple curtain of the
crucifixion. In the passage, God is described as sitting on a
throne. The artist chose to symbolize Him by placing the
setting sun just above the throne. Angels have been
depicted in paintings throughout Art History. The angels
from Isaiah’s vision were seraphim, traditionally the highest
order of celestial beings. The word “seraphim” has
connotations of “fire” or even “serpents”. What Isaiah saw
was beyond description. Two sets of wings covered the
face and feet, and one set were flying. These were not the
fairy-like, lithe, and beautiful angels of popular depiction.
Their singing shook the great temple. The artist pictures
them with heads tilted back almost impossibly with only the
wide-open mouths showing. The wings themselves are
based on studies of songbirds. The whole project took a
little over a year to complete.