Arnold Friberg was an accomplished artist known internationally for his paintings of the British Royal Family, The Prayer at Valley Forge, and paintings for Cecil B. DeMille’s film, "The Ten Commandments."
After Frieberg's death in 2010, a New York Times article described his artwork as "a painstaking quest for stunning realism."
But among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Frieberg is likely best known as the artist who created the illustrations for the "Book of Mormon."
Today, the "Book of Mormon" is self-described as Another Testament of Jesus Christ, in reference to it being another book of scripture as a companion to the Bible. From its fame as a Broadway musical to being translated into more than 90 different languages for readers worldwide, this book is definitely influential.
But in addition to the text being held sacred to countless readers, earlier publications of the "Book of Mormon" included artwork that many considered an integral part of their enjoyment of and experience with the book.
In 1951, Adele Cannon Howells, then-president of the Primary Association, commissioned Friberg to complete 12 pieces depicting scenes from the "Book of Mormon" to be published in the "Children’s Friend," a monthly magazine owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Howells thought this publication of artwork in the children’s magazine would encourage young children to read their own copies of the "Book of Mormon," but it isn’t likely that she ever meant the artwork to take any form other than publication in the children’s magazine.
Howells insisted on selling her own personal property to procure the funds. Her determination to have this artwork completed was strong, but she never got to see the fruit of her labors. Howells passed away shortly after signing the documents commissioning the paintings.
Prior to her death, Howells and Friberg had met often to discuss which scenes to depict, and after Howell’s passing, Friberg was able to choose the 12 scenes he wanted to paint based off of their joint discussions and his own artistic knowledge.
Before and perhaps during the creation of these paintings, Friberg also met with general leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in several meetings to determine how to adhere to finer points of doctrine and archeological findings. As anyone can see when looking at Friberg’s Book of Mormon paintings, such important details were definitely present and intentional.
Eventually, the 12 paintings were completed during the 1960s. The rest, as they say, is history.
Stories of converts to the faith being touched by Friberg’s "Book of Mormon" artwork are not uncommon, and the stories the pictures tell have spoken to children and readers of the book for decades. For this reason, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint members place a great appreciation and value on Friberg’s work.
Before his death in 2010, Friberg oversaw the production of a limited number of lithograph prints of his "Book of Mormon" depictions, which he signed and numbered himself.
Because these lithographs were individually approved and signed by the artist shortly before his death, they hold great historical and artistic value. Today those remaining signed prints are historic artifacts that can never again be duplicated.
Today those remaining prints are available through Art Classics LLC. Those who purchase a complete set while still available will receive a certificate of authenticity, as well as a priceless piece of history. Visit bookofmormonclassics.com to find out more today.
Whether you’re an art collector or just someone who treasures the scriptural works of Friberg, you may have the opportunity to possess a valuable piece of this religious history.