Life of Artist Arnold Friberg Celebrated at UVU with Unveiling of Bust
September 17, 2010
For Immediate Release
For more information: Barbara Hammond (801) 863-6246
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah Valley University President Matthew S. Holland, Elder Robert D. Hales of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with members of Friberg’s family and other guests, participated in a ceremonial unveiling of the bust at a private reception on Thursday night at the UVU Library.
Noted Western artist Ed Fraughton was commissioned to sculpt the bust of Friberg commissioned by UVU. President Holland and the Governor’s Office had initially planned to hold the tribute to Friberg earlier this summer while the artist was still living. Plans were put on hold when Friberg, 96, suffered an injury a week before the planned event in June, and passed away several days later.
“The UVU community joined tens of thousands of Arnold’s fans across the world in mourning the loss of one of the greatest artists ever to come from the state of Utah,” Holland said.
Friberg and Fraughton were good friends, and Friberg only relented to allow a bust of him to be sculpted for UVU after learning that Fraughton would be the sculptor, said Friberg’s wife, Heidi.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the art,” Fraughton said Friberg told him, when agreeing to allow his friend to sculpt a bust of him. He called Friberg one of “the few people in the world who really make a difference.” Fraughton added that Friberg could not have created what he created or shared what he shared with the world without the dedication and support of his wife, Heidi Friberg.
With every piece of art he sculpts, Fraughton said he tries to put all the love, personality and feeling that he can in each work.
“Never have I had the opportunity to put more love in a piece that I have with this [sculpture of Arnold,” he said.
Friberg’s works include numerous patriotic and religious themes, and are known the world over for their storytelling qualities similar to contemporaries Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth, said Marcus Vincent, an associate professor of art at UVU.
Perhaps most famous for his 1975 “Prayer at Valley Forge” depiction of the American Revolution’s Gen. George Washington, Friberg’s portfolio is as diverse as it is deep. His other notable works included a series of paintings depicting scenes in “The Book of Mormon” for the LDS Church, a set of calendars of Canadian Mounties, and a commission to paint a series of some of college football’s most spectacular moments.
A series of Friberg’s paintings commissioned by movie director Cecille B. DeMille was used by DeMille as conceptual art to create the look and feel of the classic epic, “The Ten Commandments,” Vincent said.
A longtime admirer of Friberg’s works, Gov. Herbert said Friberg once explained to him the focal point of “Prayer of Valley Forge,” a reproduction of which is located in the governor’s office, and as source of inspiration to the governor. It was Gen. Washington’s pleading hands, asking for divine guidance, during a bleak time in America’s infancy.
“Those clasped hands of George Washington set an example for us,” Herbert said. “I remember many a time Arnold talked about his faith. He was a man of great faith, like Gen. Washington.”
Herbert expressed gratitude to Friberg for sharing his art with Utah and with the world. And although the artist resided in several states around the country, he called him one of Utah’s greatest artists and a Utahn in his own right.
“He’s one of us,” Herbert said.
Elder Hales, who knew both artists, said the bonding of friendship between Friberg and Fraughton was truly a thing to behold.
“They understood, respected, and honored one another,” he said. Hales said both artists were great gifts to Utah and to people everywhere that appreciate beautiful art. “Both Arnold and Ed are visionary men who bring to life their subjects so that we may enjoy them.”
Vincent said while the art world moved on past traditional illustration with the innovation of new technologies in the 1950s-60s, Friberg, one of the school’s most talented hold-outs, continued to redefine the stylistic tradition.
“Arnold crossed both lines. He was a fine artist, but also an illustrator,” Vincent said of Friberg’s unusual gift for visual narration in a vanishing art form. “He will eventually be seen as the last of the greats.”