Arnold Friberg’s passing this week is cause to reexamine him. His work has been a victim of backlash lately from the High Minded. (I suspect because of the massive influence his Book of Mormon paintings have had on depictions of the book’s characters, particularly of Lehi’s family. It’s simply understood now that, for instance, Nephi wears leather over one shoulder, Lehi has a long white beard, Laman and Lemuel are physically brutish. His influence has so overwhelmed Book of Mormon art that sometimes people seem to forget that his work is not The One True Depiction.)
Then there’s the fact that he’s Mormon and you know how Mormons think other Mormons can only make crummy art. So for them, here’s some worldly acclaim:
Friberg originated the iconic looks in DeMille’s second Ten Commandments movie and received an Oscar nod for his efforts.
Friberg was commissioned to make his famed Washington portrait for the Bicentenniel, when it hung at Valley Forger.
Friberg was commission by Britain’s royal family to paint Prince Charles in 1978 and the Queen in 1990.
He’s an honorary Mountie.
His original works are expeeeeeeensive.
But no matter who makes the point for me, I cannot doubt that Friberg’s work was consistently iconic and has shaped the way Mormons in particular view ourselves in significant and real ways.
Let’s return to taking him seriously.