American religious painter Arnold Friberg, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Wednesday in Salt Lake City at the age of 96.
Friberg produced the famous “Prayer at Valley Forge” (1975) depicting George Washington kneeling in the snow, a painting owned by Presidents Bush and Reagan. Legend has it the painter stood on the banks of the Schuylkill River in winter, gloves removed to feel the cold. Friberg also did scene and costume design for Cecil B. DeMille’s epic The Ten Commandments, as well as paintings of scenes and characters from the Book of Mormon for an illustrated edition of the Book of Mormon that now has millions of copies circulating worldwide.
I grew up in a world colored by Arnold Friberg. On Sunday mornings in church, I stared at the corded calves and bulging biceps he gave Book of Mormon heroes. On Sunday afternoons, when my brother and sisters and I were forbidden from playing outside or watching television, except for a lone videotaped copy of The Ten Commandments, the four of us sat mesmerized by Friberg’s art on screen.
In my head, God is colored by Arnold Friberg.