The first image I can recall seeing that - in my mind - had anything to do with the Easter story was Holman Hunt's The Light of the World. "But," I hear you object, "it has nothing to do with the Easter story." And neither does it, which is why I inserted the phrase in my mind. I have no idea how it came to be so associated, but it did.
Moving on, and some few years later, on a visit - I think my first - to The Tate Gallery, I bought a poster-sized print of Salvador Dali's Crucifixion - the one depicting Him and His cross floating, rising, rocketing, soaring - I was never quite sure of the most appropriate verb - above a sleeping world. I saw this as a statement that Christ was the active participant in his passion, that he was, if not triumphant, then at the very least, the hero of the action. It was also smack, bang in the middle of my surrealism phase, so that may have had something to do with it.
Just recently I have been moved by his other crucifixion, the one featuring the blocks which seem to have offended many traditionalists. I can quite see how that might be so. I have to admit to having been shocked myself when I first saw the image, but now it just seems full of power and - I would even say - majesty.
Between those two, though, three others were to hold sway in my imagination: the Stanley Spencer, the Mathis Grunewald and the Graham Sutherland. These, however, did not fall into line and form a neat progression somehow reflecting my progress from A to B. They skirted around each other, permanent rivals vying for my favour.
It was at this point as I thought about what to post that it occurred to me that Easter is a perfect example of one of the most common myths in the history of man's thought and faith. Indeed, it seems to be universal. The myth of descent and ascent, the going down and the rising again. William Blake thought that all gods were creations of the human poetic genius and pointed out that they have had a political function in the control of the populace, but more importantly - certainly for us now - they have a poetic function. We usually speak of it as being to explore our humanity, but he pointed out that beyond that it actually creates the humanising aspects of the self.
So the Easter story is but Christianity's take on the myth of descent and rising again, the myth that occurs also, for example, in the narratives of Orpheus and his descent into the underworld. St Paul, telling the gospel story, shows no interest in the domestic life of Jesus. There is no biography to speak of. He plunges straight in with a powerful poem of Christ emptying himself and taking the lowest form of humanity, then soaring heavenwards to take the most exalted place of all. This is a myth that has been taken and adapted by the modern day psychiatrist. The patient is taken down into the murkiest depths of his or her unconscious in order to rise again and be made whole.
Traditionalists - and especially traditional Christians - will - complain that I have told only half the story, that I have focussed on the death at the expense of the resurrection, whereas it is the latter that is at the heart of the Easter story/Easter myth. And they would be correct to make that protest.
The fact is that I can think of no work of art depicting the resurrection that has moved me in the way that these images of the crucifixion have moved me. This morning (Wednesday) The Times stole my thunder with a four page insert on Easter art, one heading in which read: Artists Still Overshadowed by the Cross, however it turned out that it did not mean what I at first took it to mean. Even so, they were able to come up with only two versions of the resurrection: Fra Angelico's and that by Piero della Francesca. Furthermore, in their list of the top ten works was only the Francesca. They were also the only two to occur to me. The Francesca I greatly admire, but beyond that it leaves me cold. Even after reading the Times's worthy text on the significance of its various aspects, it fails to move me as these others have moved me. The Angelico I do appreciate, it does resonate with me, but still it has never had the deep emotional - and lasting - effect on me that my other selections have had.
I do find it incredible though, this imbalance between great deaths an d great resurrections, if I can put it that way. You could argue that the artists of the past were doing the bidding of those who commissioned them, and were not free agents in this. But that makes it more unlikely, not less, since the commissioning agent was usually the church, for whom the resurrection is at the very heart of all faith - and not just Easter.
And what of this fugitive from my past? Can anyone come up with a role for The Light of the World in the Easter story? I'll make it an Easter challenge!