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Utah Artist Known for George Washington Painting Dies

Utah Artist Known for George Washington Painting Dies

By ELIZABETH WHITE (AP)

July 02, 2010

Arnold Friberg, a Utah artist best known for his painting of George Washington in prayer at Valley Forge, died Thursday, his family said. He was 96

Jayna Friberg-Cleamons said her father-in-law died at a Salt Lake City rehabilitation center following hip replacement surgery.

Friberg, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also painted portraits of figures from the Book of Mormon.

“He didn’t want to be known as Mormon artist,” Friberg-Cleamons told The Associated Press. “He just wants to be defined as an artist that painted a wide range of things.”

Friberg-Cleamons said Friberg became an expert in any subject area he depicted, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the history of college football. She said his paintings are full of emotion.

“There’s something about the light that (he) put in these paintings that just touches” people, she said. “His work inspires people.”

Friberg also painted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, his daughter-in-law said, holding forth in his own studio at Buckingham Palace for the commission.

Friberg started drawing cartoons in his youth, according to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

“I drew an original cartoon every day because I wanted to be a cartoonist,” he told the Deseret News in 2003.

A recorded message at Friberg Fine Art in Salt Lake City said the office will be closed until Tuesday in remembrance of Friberg, who also was nominated for an Academy Award in costume design and painted scenes for the movie “The Ten Commandments.”

Friberg’s “The Prayer at Valley Forge,” which he created to commemorate the United States’ bicentennial in 1976, is displayed at the Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. It depicts Washington kneeling in the snow beside his horse.

In 1999 a federal judge ruled that bronze sculptures made by another artist were illegal copies of “The Prayer at Valley Forge” and violated Friberg’s copyright for the oil painting. Friberg had sued Jonathan Bronson in 1997, contending the two versions were unauthorized copies.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement Thursday that “The Prayer at Valley Forge” hangs in his office and that it inspires him daily.

“Utah is proud to call Arnold Friberg its adopted son,” Herbert said. “His work is instantly recognizable and has inspired countless people, whether it is through his religious illustrations or his patriotic pieces.”

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