Arnold Friberg 1913–2010

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Arnold Friberg on July 1, 2010 in my birth place of Salt Lake City, Utah at age 96. Friberg was the last living proponent of the classic Norman Rockwell/Harvey Dunn school of illustration.

He is best known for one masterpiece of a painting and three key painting projects.

Perhaps his most famous painting is his masterful portrait of George Washington, The Prayer at Valley Forge.

The Prayer at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg

The Prayer at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg

In 1953 Cecil B. DeMille hired Friberg to paint a series of pictures that established the visual tone and grandeur of DeMille’s next epic, The Ten Commandents.

The Parting of the Red Sea by Arnold Friberg

The Parting of the Red Sea by Arnold Friberg

For his extensive work on that film Friberg received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. Many of his paintings for this film were collected and reproduced in color in two different official program books for the film.

Maintaining the Right by Arnold Friberg

Maintaining the Right by Arnold Friberg

Friberg was also famed for his more than 300 paintings depicting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Tales of the Force by Arnold Friberg

Tales of the Force by Arnold Friberg

His series of Mountie paintings began as a longtime ongoing series of commissions from the Northwest Paper Company. My old studiomate Richard Hescox and I used to write the Northwest Paper Company on a fairly regular basis. They were very gracious in sending us many prints and calendars featuring Friberg’s RCMP paintings.

His fourth major project was his illustration of The Book of Mormon for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Abinadi Delivers His Message to King Noah by Arnold Friberg

Abinadi Delivers His Message to King Noah by Arnold Friberg

I don’t know if this is still true, but for a long time one could write to the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and receive (for free) a set of Friberg’s illustrations as well as a copy of The Book of Mormon containing those pictures.

Mormon Bids Farewll to a Once Great Nation by Arnold Friberg

Mormon Bids Farewll to a Once Great Nation by Arnold Friberg

Friberg became very successful as an artist. He invested his money wisely and early, buying prime property in Utah and building a beautiful home there.

Success is not without its drawbacks, however. There were several attempts in later years to purchase his home property. It had become extremely valuable as Salt Lake City had grown and prospered. Because Arnold refused, thugs were sent to his home where this gentle, elderly artist was brutally beaten near to death. He reluctantly sold his house.

In later years, as his reputation expanded, Friberg’s commissions grew in importance. He painted the royal portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales:

HRH The Prince of Wales by Arnold Friberg

HRH The Prince of Wales by Arnold Friberg

and the equestrian portrait of Queen Elizabeth II:

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Friberg

I was fortunate in being able to meet Mr. Friberg. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read an advertisement for a Canyon Country (a rural suburb near Los Angeles) gallery. They announced that they were hosting a signing with Arnold Friberg. I gathered up the books I had that were illustrated by Friberg as well as a few of his choice prints and brought them to the gallery to be signed. I also brought samples of my work to give to Arnold.

As soon as Arnold discovered I was a fellow artist, he lit up. Much to the chagrin of the gallery owners, the signing stopped as Arnold began to tell me tales about his life and art in response to the questions I had.

I asked about his Oscar nomination. A huge grin spread across his face. “All that I can remember about the moment of being nominated is that Elizabeth Taylor handed me my nomination and gave me a kiss on the cheek!”

Once I started pulling out the Friberg rarities for Arnold to sign, the gallery owners’ attitudes changed. It turned out that they were fans, too. They became very excited to see reproductions of works with which they weren’t familiar. In addition to the prints they were selling, original paintings from different aspects of Friberg’s career were on display, including some of his brilliant Ten Commandments work.

I left on a cloud that day. I’ll never forget this fine and gracious gentleman and the kindness he showed me. Here’s to the enduring work and career one of the world’s greatest artists: Arnold Friberg.

30 Responses to “Arnold Friberg 1913–2010”

  1. Jim Latimer says:

    Bill: I was greatly saddened to learn of Mr fribergs passing. The depth, lighting, and composition elements present in his work have never ceased to amaze me. He was also a masterful storyteller. I never look at one of his works without conjuring up thoughts of the remarkable story behind what he is relating on canvas. One of my prized possesions is a signed copy of the Washington print which I purchased years ago. The Mountie prints stand, by themselves, as a wonderful body of work. I wish that I had thought to write for copies of the prints and calenders. Are you aware of any volume collecting his work? I have looked for years, but have been unable to locate one. We’ve lost some great artists this year, Arnold Friberg not the least of them….Jim

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Bill. I read his obituary but did not know his artwork well. I was not aware of anything being published on him in recent history. Perhaps a retrospective will be collected and shown. What’s nice is that more artist / illustrators are getting their due these days. I’m thinking of the Gerome show coming up at the Getty and the Lucas/Spielberg collection of Rockwell paintings exhibited at the Smithsonian.

  3. Imran says:

    I have to admit that I’m not familiar with the late Mr. Friberg’s work, but the samples in this post are stunning.

    And to followup to Andy’s comment, the Getty Center is currently hosting the exhbiit, “The Spectacular Art of Jean-Leon Gerome,” so it’s not just coming up; it’s here! I saw it this past weekend and it is, indeed, spectacular!

  4. R. Martin says:

    Mr. Stout, you’re an illustrator, so you must be familiar with J. C Leyendecker’s 1935 Saturday Evening Post cover with Washington in the same pose (dubious history- about as true as the “cherry tree” story, but that’s a separate issue) and Rockwell’s 1950 Boy Scout calendar painting using a similar image, both predating Friberg’s work by many years. Do you know if Friberg himself ever addressed his appropriation of this imagery in his painting? No one seems to mention it at all.

  5. Mr. Stout, You and your readers will be pleased to know our Foundation signed with Arnold and his family on July 21st to purchase his entire collection, his home, his studio, his publishing company and all copyrights. l have been working with Arnold and the family for 5 years. Unfortunately, he won’t ever see his museum, a dream he shared with me 27 years ago. Steven Spielberg purchased Arnold Friberg’s “Mind if I Join you Gentleman?” In my opinion it is the best of the 3 barroom paintings. The Arnold Friberg Museum of fine Art will house the last barroom painting, ” Gentleman’s Foursome”. Steve Wynn owns his first, “Winners and Losers”.

    To R.Martin:
    I talked to Arnold about Leyendecker’s post cover after I first met him. As I recall, he did not deny ever seeing the cover because he was a great fan of J. C., however, he stated emphatically he did not use it as a reference. I haven’t compared the Boy Scout Illustration he did for the Era Magazine with Rockwell’s. We do have that one as part of the collection, as well as “The Prayer at Valley Forge”.

    To Mr. Stout:
    He was attacked and left for dead. It was over the State of Utah condemning his property to put a freeway through. He fought it for several years in the mid 1970’s. He lost the battle and had to move his home up the hill closer to his studio. The paintings you have displayed on your site will be in the collection except for the Prince Charles Painting and the Book of Mormon paintings.

  6. There are indeed books on Arnold Friberg’s work & career. I once obtained a copyof the mail one from his studio & had him sign it. Including one from the Museum that holds the rights to all the calendar RCMP paintings, of a selection of various paintings, by Friberg & other artists also involved. I suggest you check on “Google” for details, which I’m sure are still available somewhere. There used to be a website devoted to ALL the RCMP calendar work, but sadly that has long gone. The RCMP themselves put out several calendars with special permission, with all proceeds going to a fund devoted to finding blood donors to match members with illness.There have in the past been fine illustrated articles in one important Western art magazine & I think even “Western Horsemen”. I don’t have details with me, here at my local library. But maybe can find more when I go home & leave a further reply here. Sincerely, John. (84 year old “fan”!) (Come to think of it Friberg’s long association with the RCMP, led to his being granted an honorary “membership”. They helped with his wedding to his former nurse, following his loss of his first wife. The Prince Charles painting is in a northern Canadian museum, where they had to break down a wall to get it in! Supposedly he was still working on the Queen’s portrait some time back & he & his wife had been at Buckingham palace during & after the sittings. Needless to say examples of the various calendar art are to be found all over the RCMP buildings throughout Canada! A favorite with members, as well as the public & collectors.)

  7. Bill says:

    Hi Jim,
    Yes, there is a book on Friberg. It’s Arnold Friberg: The Passion of a Modern Master (1985). He also illustrated Arnold Friberg’s Little Christmas Book (1959), which my friend Bob Foster obtained for me while he was living and working in Utah. The two beautiful softcover souvenir program books (one vertical, the other horizontal in format) for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) are worth picking up as well. I just ordered the hardcover edition of Looking North: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Illustrations, which is heavily illustrated by Friberg and Harold (Prince Valiant) Foster, among others.

    Hi Andy and Imran,
    I am SO looking forward to seeing the Gerome show!

    Hi R. Martin,
    I am very familiar with the Leyendecker painting with the exact same pose (and the Rockwell painting as well). That’s always bothered me whenever I look at the Friberg painting.

    Hi Leon,
    Thanks for all of that great Friberg info! I’ll be one of the first in line to see the Friberg Museum. The Eminent Domain story you mention involving the savage beating of Mr. Friberg is a very black mark on the corrupt government officials of Utah, as well as the greedy business owners who stood to profit from the location of the new freeway. I would happily volunteer for the firing squad to execute all who were involved. Disgraceful.

    Hi John,
    Thanks for the tip on the Mounties book; I just ordered it. Sorry to hear that website with all the Friberg Mountie paintings is no longer up. Drat! I’ve got several magazines with Friberg articles and keep a big clipbook of the work of his that has appeared in ads through the years. He also painted a great Fu Manchu magazine cover many decades ago that’s worth tracking down. All of those RCMP paintings on display throughout Canada make for a great excuse to visit our famously polite neighbors to the north. The food’s great, too (thank you, French influence)!

  8. R. Martin says:

    Mr. Burrows: I’m unfamiliar with Friberg’s “Era Magazine” Boy Scout illustration. I was comparing the Rockwell to “The Prayer at Valley Forge”. It’s a BS Calendar piece showing 2 scouts looking off to the distance with a low-contrast, blue hued image of Washington praying behind them. It, however, has Washington with a standard fingertip-to-fingertip hand position, among other alterations. It was done in 1950, and as Rockwell idolized Leyendecker I’m sure it was intended as an homage. The Leyendecker has the same positioning, including the clasped hands (very uncomfortable to do, actually). The hat’s in a different place but everything else is pretty much the same- except, of course, that the Post cover, being vertical, focuses in on GW at the expense of the horse.

  9. Jim Latimer says:

    Dear Bill: Thanks to you and Mr. Matthew for your advice on Friberg art book collections. I purchased “Looking North'” a while back, and really enjoyed it. You are in for a treat when it arrives. There are some great Friberg works included in the volume. Also, I was pleased to see early works by the wonderful Hal Foster, my all time favorite, included. The “Passion of a Modern Master” just arrived from Amazon. It did not disappoint! The composition and detail in many works, particularly “The Ten Commandments” and barroom pieces, is just amazing. Great news to hear Leon mention a Friberg museum is on the horizon. It is a great accomplishment to keep the bulk of a collection together for future generations of admirers. I only wish the Frazetta collection could meet the same fate. I really envy you guys on the West Coast in being so close to the new Gerome exhibit. It sounds like one not to be missed. His work, and the sense of atmosphere it captures, has always amazed me. A similar exhibit on the work of Ludwig Deutsch would also be a great idea.

  10. Aaron says:

    Didn’t Greenwich Workshop do a book of Friberg art some years ago?
    Anyone remember the title?
    Where will the Friberg museum be located?

  11. Imran says:

    Jim, allow me to “repay” a bit of the envy by saying that “Passion of a Modern Master” sounds like a great book on Mr. Friberg! “The Ten Commandments” has long been one of my favorite films, and the paintings associated with it must be epic, judging from the sample in Bill’s post.

    Given that you’re a Gerome fan, you should be aware that there’s a new book coming out on his art in August. It’s called, simply, “Jean-Leon Gerome,” by Laurence des Cars, Dominique de Font-Relaux, and Edouard Papet. It’s actually the catalogue for the exhibition we’ve mentioned. I took a look at a display copy, and the book is thick and comprehensive. It’s also in English, so don’t let the authors’ French names cause any concern. The book is available through Amazon.

  12. Jim Latimer says:

    Dear Imran: Thanks so much. I’ll look it up. I would really love to see the exhibit, but this will be the next best thing. I have the ACR Gerome volume which I never tire of studying. Wonderful artist , with a wonderful sense of time and place. If you can find a copy of the Friberg book, pick it up. It is well worth the effort. Hopefully, we will get another more comprehensive volume in the near future.

  13. Cliff Green says:

    Hey Bill,

    I was a lifelong fan of Arnold Friberg’s work, starting when I was very young, and first seeing his work of “heroic” style figures in the standard issue Book of Mormons. My mom sent me his art book in 1986 while I was serving an LDS mission in New England, and it was one of the biggest influences in me pursuing an art career. . My only regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet him and tell him what his artwork meant to me. The world has lost one of the last great classical style masters.

    Cliff

  14. Dear William Stout: Can you forgive me? Somehow I wasn’t too familiar with your brilliant art, but now have enjoyed your amazing website! There is a stunning DVD devoted to Frazetta’s art & life story, which I hope can still be found. I certainly place you along with him as The preminent fantasy artist! But then you do so much more! Arnold Friberg may have started as a commercial artist, but he developed into a grand master painter, using the same methods that dated back to the giants of the renaissance!!! I only wish that website was still around that catalogued ALL his North West Paper Company “Mounties”. That museum has all of them & the rights, which led to the volume several of the correspondents here have found. Hopefully it may lead to another book? Friberg’s paintings are absolutely superb, when it comes to loving detail & his sincere belief in his subject matter, whether it be religeous, Native Indian, RCMP, or his amazing grasp of history, as in the famous Valley Forge prayer? No other artist of our times has ever reached that degree of committment! John.

  15. Please also see my comments on your tribute to the late Frank Frazetta & my further report on the DVD available of the documentary on his art & life, which is still available! John.

  16. Go to http://www.d.umn.edu/tma/store/mountie.html for a lot of Friberg Mountie art available from Tweed Museumj of Art, Minnesota campus, at Duluth. They hold all the old Potlach Corp/NW Paper Company calendar art. Maybe as many as 374 by Friberg? John

  17. David says:

    Noticed your interest of Mr. Friberg at your site. There is a fine piece of art available called,”In The Waters of Manitou” by Arnold Friberg. There are photos at http://www.growthconcepts.org/arnold/arnold.html

    Carolyn at Friberg Fine Art said,”We made a limited edition in the 80’s of In the Waters of Manitou.” This is a canvas transfer that was given to me in 88-89. Very unique for that time and is in excellent condition.

    Let me know if you are interested. There is a legend to be told with this art piece.

  18. Bill says:

    Hi David,
    I bought a print of that painting when I met Mr. Friberg. I love the reversed out (white side in) birch bark canoe.

  19. David says:

    Anyone familiar with the original In The Waters of Manitou? David@growthconcepts.org or DavidCWhipple@gmail.com

  20. Joanne says:

    We have a collection of original sketches by Arnold Friberg that are very interesting. If you would care to browse, and read the comments from the original recipients they are at http://www.bnr-art.com/friberg
    (click on original sketches link on that page)
    Arnold contributed some wonderful art to the world with Prayer at Valley Forge and more, and he will be missed!

  21. Kathleen Munn says:

    I have a beautiful Friberg print of MY HERO, a Native American painting. Signed and #.
    Since I have no place for it, I am hoping to sell it to a fan.

    It is framed in an amazing barnwood custom frame with real silver conches.
    We had it hanging for many years, but since moving and downsizing, we will let it go.
    feel free to contact me.

    Kathleen Munn
    Paso Robles, Ca.

  22. Rick Olsen says:

    My name is Rick Olsen. I was the marketing director for Arnold for 5 years. I was the one who convinced him to sell limited edition prints. He was very much against it in the beginning. We conducted many events centered around promoting his art. Among them we staged an unveiling to a standing room only event in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. We unveiled “Joseph in the Grove” and he spoke at the event. We had many musical groups performing before the unveiling. It was truly an historical event. It took me many hours and months to get him to turn aside his anger at the government of Salt Lake City. I also was the only one to help Arnold when his first wife died. He and I spent many hours preparing for her funeral. I made all the arrangements. Would you be interested in seeing clips from the unveiling. I have five production quality video cassettes of the event. I want to sell them. Let me know if you are interested.
    Rick Olsen
    915-487-1272
    playbook1000@yahoo.com
    PS No copies have been made of this event. The event was in 1986.

  23. Jeff Lee says:

    If anyone can help me I would appreciate it. I have found a whole set of Arnolds book of mormon paintings in my fathers basement. If someone is interested please let me know.
    Thanks,
    Jeff 801-898-2000

  24. Leon D. Burrows says:

    An update on the Friberg Museum. After Arnold signed the agreement which was a few days before he died, we did not make the deadline (which was unreasonable) for the down payment. It was sad because we were extremely close. His step-son would not work with us, and changed the contract. Took out the major piece “The Prayer at Valley Forge”. This piece is absolutely essential to be included in the collection. We are sad that we could not fulfill Arnolds dream as well as ours for this community. Arnold will always be remembered as great artist and illustrator, and cherished as our close friend.
    Just for your information, Rick Olsen is not entirely correct with the information he stated.
    Leon D. Burrows
    Bountiful, Utah

  25. Jon Platten says:

    I recently found Arnold Friberg’s book entitled, “Arnold Friberg. The Passion of a Modern Master” First Edition 1985, autographed by the Mr. Friberg. It gives great insight into his paintings, life and experiences working with Cecil B DeMille on The Ten Commandments. I have his George Washington at Valley Forge, signed by the artist and numbered.I also found the movie premier handout for the movie The Ten Commandments and Mr Friberg’s art work is shown there as well. A great artist and illustrator. I feel blessed to have his art work in my home along side many great Utah artists works.

    Jon P
    Kaysville, UT

  26. Rian Nelson says:

    I agree with your wonderful sentiments. You can all see some previously unseen sketches of some of Fribergs original art at friberglosrldscollection.com

  27. David says:

    Hello,

    Would you be familiar with someone that could value a painting of Arnold Friberg. And or do you know the original owner of the 1983 painting of In the Waters of Manitou?

  28. Leon Burrows says:

    We have the name of the appraiser that has appraised all of Arnold work. contact us direct.

  29. David says:

    How do I contact you Leon? A painting was given to me in 1987 of In the Waters of Manitou. It is not a print. It is not the 1991 reprint that was touched up. It is smaller than the 37 x 58 original but in excellent shape. It is framed. My contact information is (801) 805-0166. I am interested in selling it to a museum. It is museum quality.

  30. Sarah says:

    Hello, I have a painting that was hand signed by Arnold in 2008 it has the certificate as well it is the ten commandments the giving of the law. I am interested in selling it if you or any one you know are interested please contact me at: 801-809-0526 or by email sarah24695@gmail.com

    Thank you

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