Head of Christ by Warner Sallman – Most Reproduced Artwork of All Time
Intro to the Head of Christ
My grandparents had The Head of Christ print on the wall of their living room. I think I’ve probably seen this image at least a hundred times – maybe many more.
It’s only recently that I became aware of the story behind this piece of art.
It happened because the following video was one of those “related” videos listed on the right side of the screen of another YouTube video I had just watched. It caught my eye and the story fascinated me.
I hope it fascinates you, too!
The narrator of the video gives 500 billion as the number of reproductions of the Head of Christ. Wikipedia gives 500 million. Either way, it is a huge number.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia to more about the artist, Warner Sallman, and his art.
Warner Elias Sallman was the eldest of three children born to Elias Sallman and Christiane (Larson) Sallman who were immigrants from Finland and Sweden. He trained by apprenticing in local studios while attending the Chicago Art Institute at night. There he became a protégé of Walter Marshall Cluett, a newspaper illustrator noted for his work during the Spanish American War. He initially was affiliated with local studios until he opened his own. In 1916, he married Ruth Anderson, whom he met while both were singing in the church choir.
Sallman is best known for his Head of Christ, which was designed in 1940, and has sold over 500 million copies that are used in churches of several Christian denominations, as well as for private devotional use.
Sallman is also well known for his rendition of the popular image Christ at Heart’s Door. Other popular images produced from 1942 to 1950 include Christ in Gethsemane, The Lord is My Shepherd, and Christ Our Pilot.
The vast collection of his original works, including Head of Christ, is owned by Anderson University. Warner Press, the publishing arm of the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, holds the copyright and distribution rights to all Warner Sallman images.
Sallman also created a lesser-known work called The Ascension of Christ. The painting is owned by and located in the First Covenant Church, Iron Mountain, Michigan. It measures 20 feet wide by 23 feet high. The painting was done in one of the large meeting rooms on the campus of North Park College (now University) in Chicago and shipped in two large rolls to Iron Mountain where it was installed by the men of the church on the wall above the choir loft. Sallman came to Iron Mountain to put finishing touches on the painting and attend the dedication at First Covenant Church in May, 1952. It is believed to be the largest painting done by the artist.
Sallman named the eleven apostles in the painting (from left to right) James, the lesser; Philip; Matthew; Thaddeus; James, the elder, son of Zebedee; Thomas, the doubter; John, brother of James; Andrew, brother of Simon Peter; Simon Peter, now shepherd of the flock; Simon, the Zealot; Bartholomew. The full figure of Christ can be seen from any elevation when entering the church.
Warner Press is the principal owner and distributor of many of Sallman’s artworks. They can be viewed and purchased at:
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