American illustrator and beloved LDS painter Arnold Friberg passed away early this morning, July 1, 2010 in Salt Lake City.
Brother Friberg was born to Scandinavian parents settled in Arizona. In 1921, his family joined the Church, and Brother Freiberg was baptized at eight, the following year. As a young man, Friberg attented the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where he honed his natural gift for illustration and art. He first made a name for himself creating more than 300 paintings of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for a calender company. He is the only American to be made an honorary member of the RCMP.
During World War II, Friberg served in the United States Army, where he turned down an offer to draw recruitment posters for the Air Force and instead volunteered for service at the front. His artistic talents were there utilized in drawing maps for his company.
After the war, Brother Friberg married Hedve Baxter and settled in San Francisco, where he began work on a series of western paintings for another calender company. He and Hedve relocated to Utah in 1950, when he began teaching art at the University of Utah. Brother Friberg’s aspirations to paint for the LDS church were frustrated at the time, as the Church was commissioning very few painters and works of art.
In 1953, Brother Friberg was called to Hollywood by Cecil B. DeMille to work on conceptual paintings for the movie The Ten Commandments. Shortly after this work in Hollywood, the Church contacted Friberg to begin a series of painting on the Book of Mormon. Over the following decades, he was commercially successful, painting for advertising campaigns, historical publications, and even a casino in Las Vegas. His early work with the RCMP garnered him attention and respect, and in 1977 he was commissioned to paint the portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales and in 1990, he was called to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II- both of which were painted at Buckingham Palace.
His most famous work, Prayer at Valley Forge, was painted in 1975 to commemorate the upcoming American Bicentennial. As Latter-Day Saints, many of us have been strongly influenced by Brother Friberg’s beautiful interpretations of scriptural events. The images he created were so strong, so striking- the have become a part of our collective religious experience.
Of his own work, Abinadi before King Noah (Mosiah 11—13). Brother Friberg said: “I composed it the opposite of the well-known principle in art, the ‘principle of the Jewel.’ . . . It is like a jewel setting—the central figure is the most interesting part. You use the strongest color and the strongest and most vibrant contrast around the center of interest, and then it goes into surrounding neutrals. I reversed it here for the purposes of this picture. Against the simplicity of Abinadi in his grey prison garb was the opulence of the court. The richness of the colors set off this simple, humble man… Then there are the priests of King Noah. I had somewhat in mind the man back here at the right might be young Alma. He was mightily impressed by the courageous testimony of Abinadi, so much so that he became a prophet.”
Interestingly, the man who posed in the painting as Abinadi is actually the same man who, as a young Elder, baptized the Friberg family in Arizona back in 1921.
For your enjoyment, here are some additional Friberg paintings: