Harry Anderson, The Second Coming. Although Church members will

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Harry Anderson, The Second Coming. Although Church members will  - page 1
Harry Anderson, The Second Coming. Although Church members will likely recognize this painting and other works of art discussed in this article, they may not be familiar with the artists who created them. Courtesy Visual Resources Library © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
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Setting a Standard in LDS Art Four Illustrators of the Mid-Twentieth Century Robert T. Barrett and Susan Easton Black P rints of paintings of Christ and other people from the scriptures and Church history are displayed in Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, visi- tors’ centers, and temples throughout the world and are used in Church magazines and manuals. Many of these artworks were created in the 1950s and 1960s by American illustrators Arnold Friberg, Harry Anderson, Tom Lovell, and Ken Riley. While the religious works of these illustrators are familiar, less known are the career paths these artists took and the other works of art they created. This article aims to acquaint the reader with the lives of these illustrators and the circumstances surrounding their artwork commissioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Friberg, Anderson, Lovell, and Riley earned their reputations in the heyday of the national magazines Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, McCalls, Liberty, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal. These artists are a product of the golden age of illustration, a period from the 1880s to the 1930s 1 which saw unprecedented growth in commercial art. Many talented artists in America were attracted to the field of illustration, and they competed for the chance to paint a page or cover for nationally distributed magazines. Whether the magazines featured factual articles, romantic stories, adventurous yarns, or murder mysteries, the illustrator was expected to interpret the text and work within limitations and deadlines. 2 The variety and sheer volume of paintings in these magazines advanced the artists’ careers. “If you are doing representational paintings, like I am today, I can’t think of a better training ground than illustration,” says Ken Riley. “Illustration is a stepping stone for a lot of artists who have gone on to gallery work.” 3 Indeed, Friberg, Anderson, Lovell, and Riley BYU Studies , no. 2 (25) 2
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Robert T. Barrett and Susan Easton Black Serving on BYU’s Faculty Council on Rank and Status brought not only weighty decisions to Robert Barrett, Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications, and to Susan Easton Black, Professor of Church His- tory and Doctrine, but a collegial friend- ship. As their friendship grew, these veteran faculty members shared their interest in the famous illustrators of the past whose replicated artwork still adorns LDS meetinghouses and temples throughout the world. With an opportunity extended to them by Doris R. Dant to write an article for BYU Studies celebrating the lives of the great illustrators, Barrett and Black were intrigued and determined to combine their talents. Barrett brought his expertise in illustration, and Black shared her ability to write biographies. It proved a learning experience for both. Black developed a greater appreciation for the artistic talents of these pictorial storytellers, and Barrett gained a greater understanding of the artists’ lives and the circumstances that brought them to the attention of Church- connected entities responsible for their specific commissions. Robert Barrett feels a deep appreciation for these artists. As a boy growing up in rural Utah, he saw in Life magazine a series on the Civil War created by Tom Lovell. Inspired, Barrett practiced his art by copying Lovell’s work. Barrett also admired Ken Riley’s work in magazines and learned to recognize it. It was a special pleasure for Barrett to talk with Riley and also with Arnold Friberg for this article, as the artists have great mutual respect for each other’s work. Barrett and Black both express appreciation for assistance from David Lovell, son of the late Tom Lovell, and Kristin Geddes, daughter of the late Harry Anderson.
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Setting a Standard in LDS Art V 2 did move on to portrait, mural, and gallery work. As the gap between art and illustration has recently narrowed, appreciation for the contribution of these artists has increased. The Golden Age of Illustration As late as the nineteenth century, fine art could be seen only by the wealthy or those who frequented museums. In the United States, because travel to the museums and galleries of Europe was too often financially prohibitive, an increasing audience clamored for reproductions of fine art. Although European owners were usually amenable to prints being made of their private collections, poor printing processes made such willingness a moot point. Replicating an accurate, printed version of an original draw- ing or painting without blurry lines and muddied colors was impossible. In the nineteenth century, the invention of high-speed rotary-plate presses and a high-quality halftone engraving process soon changed the impos- sible to the conceivable. 4 European corporate executives saw potential revenue in reproducing art for a rising middle-class society; their counterparts in America saw that potential and more. The Americans envisioned great profit in nation- ally distributed books and magazines that combined art with narratives and short stories. These entrepreneurs believed that by sending illustrated magazines through the mail, it would not be long before housewives, breadwinners, and children were scurrying to be the first to read monthly or weekly publications. Many American artists were invited to submit portfolios to the emerg- ing American art patron, the magazine editor. Some artists scoffed at the invitation to illuminate a short story with a painting, refusing to pollute their talent by associating with a literary product of questionable worth. The thought of subjecting the creativity of their paintbrushes to the dic- tates of an editor seemed unrewarding. These artists could not imagine that becoming a pictorial storyteller would be anything but a step down, a prostitution of God-given talents. Not all artists, however, held this view. Howard Pyle, often referred to as the “Father of American Illustration,” embraced the book and maga- zine world. Pyle pioneered new ways to depict the dramatic, the heroic, the adventurous, and the American. Pyle later opened American art schools dedicated to building a contingent of American illustrators that was unrivaled by European counterparts. 5 Among his highly talented stu- dents, none was more impressive or teachable than Harvey Thomas Dunn (1884–1952). 6
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28 v BYU Studies Dunn illustrated stories for the Saturday Evening Post. 7 Dur- ing World War I, he worked as a graphic reporter on the front lines. At the war’s end, Dunn began teaching at the Grand Cen- tral School of Art in New York City. Only students whose port- folios passed his critical review were invited to enroll in his class. Arnold Friberg and Ken Riley were among the chosen. 8 Under Dunn’s demand- ing tutelage, America’s new art- ists learned to set the stage for a reader to imagine a story. They were told again and again that Howard Pyle (1853–1911), with his grand- an illustrator had the potential to daughter, Phoebe. shape America’s self-image, and, in order to shape the American Dream, they had to be good— 9 very good. “Paint the epic; not the incidental,” Dunn admonished. “Any picture that needs a caption is a weak picture. . . . In making a picture, you should excite interest, not educate. Let the colleges do that.” 10 Although not all teachers at the Grand Central School of Art agreed with Dunn’s philosophy, gifted students caught the vision. To them, Dunn was the catalyst for igniting their aspirations. Under his guidance, this hand-picked cohort of students illustrated American icons. They became the pictorial storytellers that sustained the vision established in the Golden Age of Illustration through the 1940s and 1950s. To their readership, maga- zine covers revealed the ideal life: the soda fountain, the doctor’s office, and the classroom. Norman Rockwell, a student of Dunn, created vignettes of daily life that made images of sleigh rides to Grandma’s house and stock- ings hung for Santa Claus into American icons. Such illustrations became more popular in America than so-called fine art. This popularity led art- ists to vie for opportunities to illustrate even poorly written short stories in a nationally distributed magazine. But meeting deadlines, satisfying edi- tors, and discarding originals for the published form was difficult. Illustra- tor Paul Calle recalled the difficulty of working for a magazine: “One week you were doing the great moments in surgery, the next it was people of the Bible. Our job was not merely to take the script and follow it exactly; it was Courtesy Library of Congress
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Setting a Standard in LDS Art V 29 to create interest in the scene, to go beyond the written word.” 11 Ken Riley felt that illustration brought the best artists in America together. “We prided ourselves on being able to make a good picture of anything,” he said. 12 For the men and women who succeeded, it was a wonderful time, a golden age in which the American artist was born. But, as with any era, this golden age passed. Photography eventu- ally replaced much illustration, and television viewing pushed aside magazines. During this transi- tional time, illustrators scurried to find alternative markets, including those more closely associated with fine arts. Those who perpetuated the standard came to the attention of Latter-day Saint leaders. Arnold Friberg Harvey Dunn, poster for the United States Food Administration during World War I. Arnold Friberg, the son of Sven Peter Friberg of Sweden and Ingeborg Solberg of Norway, was born on December 12, 1913, at Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Due to his father’s deteriorating health, the family moved to warmer climes when Friberg was three years old. They settled in Phoenix, where his father was employed as a blue-collar worker. 13 When Friberg was seven years old, his father was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a fellow carpenter. 14 Friberg’s parents were baptized, and one year later so was Arnold. Art captured Friberg’s young fancy. “I knew from the age of four what I was going to do,” he mused. His father encouraged his budding talent. “Every day I would draw an original cartoon. They were crude, but . . . they weren’t copied,” Friberg recalled. He became so proficient at car- tooning that, on his eighth birthday, his father took him to meet “Uncle Billy” Spear, editor of the Arizona Republican, where Mr. Friberg worked. Spear told young Arnold to come back the next Saturday. 15 Dwight B. Heard, owner and publisher of the newspaper, also took an interest in the young artist. 16 Courtesy Library of Congress
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30 v BYU Studies By age ten, Friberg was convinced that he needed to enroll in an art course. He enrolled in a cartooning correspondence course offered through the Washington School of Cartooning. 17 “Every penny counted” to the Friberg family, and neighbors told Arnold’s parents, “You’re wasting your money. A boy 10 years old isn’t ready to study on a professional level!” Friberg’s parents ignored the comments. 18 By age thirteen, Arnold had “turned pro” and was working for a sign painter. At fourteen, he enrolled in the Federal Schools of Minneapolis, a correspondence school for commercial artists. 19 Before the year ended, he was self-employed, painting signs and displays for theaters, real-estate entrepreneurs, and the manager of the local wrestling arena. By age fif- teen, he had been hired by Safeway grocery store to paint signs, and a local vaudeville production had employed him to do “chalk talk” acts on stage. Friberg liked “chalk talk.” On stage he drew legendary characters to the delight of cheering crowds. 20 Crowds also cheered Arnold’s athletic prowess on the football field and in the boxing arena, but their plaudits did not turn his artistic bent toward self-portraits. “I’m not keen on painting things of my own life and times,” he said, preferring “things of great antiquity.” 21 In recogni- tion of his talent, Friberg received three national art awards before high school graduation. After graduation, Friberg received unusual advice from his bishop, who generally counseled young men to serve missions: “Forego the mis- sion. Go to art school instead, for you will do more good through develop- ing your talent than you could do in two years of door-to-door tracting.” 22 Following that advice “with alacrity,” Friberg entered the Chicago Acad- emy of Fine Arts. 23 After an intensive year of training in which he worked part time for printers, he returned to Arizona and touted himself as a com- mercial artist. Although the grim years of the Great Depression gripped Phoenix, Friberg never looked to the government for “make work” proj- ects. Yet he gave up his lucrative business in 1934 for a chance to enroll once again in design, lettering, fashion drawing, and illustration at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He then remained in Chicago, doing a variety of commercial art. 24 Of these options, it was illustration that captured his fancy. “I learned more from the great illustrators than from any painter,” he claimed. 25 In spite of the rigorous training, it was not until 1937 that Friberg received his first “big break.” The Northwest Paper Company, a manu- facturer of fine printing paper, commissioned him to create a pictorial symbol for the Northwest Mounted Police. From his first illustration of the “Mounties” to his last, his depictions of athletic uniformed men became
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Setting a Standard in LDS Art V 31 collector’s items and helped make Friberg the only American invited to be an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. His series of three hundred paintings over a thirty-eight-year commission is recognized as the longest-running series of illustrations in advertising history. 26 With this ongoing art commission in his portfolio, Friberg was num- bered among the young illustrators who could approach the major national magazines. It was no surprise that an invitation came in 1940 for him to attend the Grand Central School of Art and study under the tutelage of Harvey Dunn. Friberg did not hesitate to accept the invitation. Although class work was demanding and Dunn uncompromising, Fri- berg excelled until World War II. He had not anticipated that anything could divert him from Dunn’s tutoring, but the war dampened his aspirations and ended the honeymoon period of his education. For a time, he considered serv- ing in the air corps, which was actively seeking illustrators to depict young men looking skyward—the ultimate symbol of patriotism. He was offered a captain’s commission if he would paint recruiting posters, but he refused the commission because he “couldn’t rationalize wearing a uniform in a cushy desk job in the states” when his peers were fighting in deadly combat. 27 Friberg saw war action in the Philippines and in Europe with the U.S. Army’s 86th Infantry Division. For three and a half years, he scouted and patrolled along enemy lines. When not seeking out the enemy, he drew maps and training aids for his division. The work was intense, danger- ous, and demanding, and in 1946, when his troop ship docked in the San Francisco harbor, Friberg was ready for discharge. He longed to return to illustration to depict the good, the wholesome, and the American Dream. But he soon realized that the war had altered his artistic style. Before the war, Friberg explained, “to me a mountain was a shape and a tone . . . [but] through the army training and the actual combat, earth started to become a real thing. . . . It became a physical thing—something that would stop a bul- let.” 28 The epic power and physical substance of his new illustrations landed him work and the necessary funds to set up a studio in San Francisco. Although designing packages, fashion illustrations, and a calen- dar series featuring the American West kept him busy, a young woman named Hedve Baxter captured his attention. In 1946 they were married in San Francisco. Two years later, the young couple visited Salt Lake City, where Friberg formed an acquaintance with Avard Fairbanks, then dean of the newly created College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. Their acquaintance grew to friendship when doctors recommended that Hedve’s health would improve in drier climes, and Fairbanks expressed excite- ment over having Friberg, a national “big-league” illustrator, consider Salt Lake City home. Fairbanks invited Friberg, who had never completed an
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32 v BYU Studies academic degree, to teach practical courses in commercial art and illustra- tion at the University of Utah. 29 Although Friberg accepted the invitation, he believed his real rea- son for coming to Salt Lake City in 1950 was to be commissioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to do epic religious paintings. He viewed himself as spending a lifetime painting Bible scenes, the pio- neer trek, and sacred moments in Church history. He imagined “a good forty paintings of the life of Joseph Smith. How I could bring that guy to life! Through strong pictures, I could build Joseph into an American hero,” he said. 30 But Friberg was disappointed to discover that illustration was not a high priority to Church leaders. His first Church commission was a commemorative painting for the hundredth anniversary of Richard Ballantyne’s first Sunday School in the Salt Lake Valley. Neighborhood children dressed in nineteenth- century costumes were photographed, sketches were made, and oil studies were completed before he painted the scene on canvas. 31 Additional opportunities to create book dust jackets and billboards did little to forward his career, and these jobs were time consuming. Hoping to steer his career toward religious themes, Friberg sought divine help. He felt that God answered him and provided the gifts necessary to advance his career and his art: “The first vision of a pic- ture always comes—‘Boom!’ I never have but one concept of a picture, but I have to do research because I don’t see it all in clarity,” said Fri- berg. “The idea selects the artist it wants.” As to why he has been so blessed, he unequivocally stated, “What I do I am driven to do. I fol- low the dictates of a loom- ing and unseen force. . . . I try to become like a musi- cal instrument, intruding no sound of its own but bring- ing forth such tones as are played upon it by a master’s Arnold Friberg, Our First Rocky Mountain Sun- day School. hand.” 32 Courtesy Visual Resources Library © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
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Setting a Standard in LDS Art V 33 Among those who recognized the powerful spirit and vision of Fri- berg’s art was Adele Cannon Howells (1902–1951), general president of the Primary from 1943 to 1951. 33 On her deathbed, she arranged for the sale of personal property to pay Friberg twelve thousand dollars for twelve illustrations depicting Book of Mormon scenes to appear in the Children’s Friend. Friberg recalls, “It was a startling task to undertake, for the Book of Mormon had never been illustrated before, at least on any professional level. There were no precedents as there are for the Bible. Imagine illustrat- ing the Bible or the Book of Mormon in twelve pictures!” 34 Sister Howells anticipated that children seeing the Friberg reprinted paintings would find in them scriptural heroes. Friberg shared her vision but also added his own. He believed that children were drawn to paintings of fully developed characters, not the “Dick and Jane” of art or what he called a “kiddie” style. He was convinced that children deserved to see the “power and majesty of the word of God.” 35 Although the contractual arrangement was between Sister Howells and Friberg only, a misconception persists that the Book of Mormon paintings were commissioned by Church priesthood leaders. Sister How- ells not only conceived of the idea, she had the tenacity to face murmured opposition and sell personal property to pay for the paintings. Unfortu- nately, she did not live long enough to see one sketch drawn. Friberg turned to Church leaders for historical and doctrinal sugges- tions. He had questions about antiquity and archeological findings as well as about hair length and clothing but was surprised to find that opinions varied from leader to leader. And with that variation grew a personal frus- tration in attempting to paint another’s visual interpretation of scripture when he had thoughts of his own. 36 Adding to the dilemma was a strong suggestion that he paint great sermons, such as those given by Alma and King Benjamin. Realizing that the Book of Mormon is much more than a record of sermons, Friberg countered the suggestion with a conviction that a sermon, although inspiring to listeners, does not provide the drama needed to create an intriguing scene. 37 He wanted to paint heroes that appeared legendary in stature. “This idea that mankind is wretched and little is wrong,” he stated. “The muscularity in my paintings is only an expression of the spirit within. When I paint Nephi, I’m painting the interior, the greatness, the largeness of spirit. Who knows what he looked like? I’m painting a man who looks like he could actually do what Nephi did.” 38 This artistic philosophy too often left him feeling ostra- cized. “It sounds egotistical to say I’m the only guy that can do a particular type of picture. But it’s true, and I feel a burden that separates me from people,” Friberg said. 39
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