Do you recognize this piece of art?
Odds are pretty good that you do. Perhaps this picture was on the wall at your Grandmother’s house or your home church. You might even have the picture on your wall. It is one of the most reproduced pictures of the 20th Century.
But do you know the story behind it?
Painted by Rhoda Nyberg, this famous portrait is from a photograph taken in 1918 by Mrs. Nyberg’s father, Eric Enstrom, a photographer from Bovey, Minnesota.
Popular evangelical blogger Justin Taylor recently did some research on the famous piece and here is what he discovered… (the rest of this post is word-for-word from Justin Taylor’s original post at The Gospel Coalition website):
Is it a photo or a painting?
It was originally a photo, and it was later painted in oils.
What’s the name of the painting?
Who is the man in the photo?
Charles Wilden, a peddler who sold foot-scrapers.
What year was it taken?
Who took the photo?
Where was it taken?
In Enstrom’s photography studio in Bovey, Minnesota.
Wilden, selling foot-scrapers, called upon Enstrom. Enstrom was in the midst of preparing a portfolio of photos for the upcoming Minnesota Photographer’s Association convention. Wilden agreed to be photographed, and Enstrom arranged a table with a bread, a knife, a bowl of gruel, spectacles, and a Bible, asking Wilden to bow in prayer. Enstrom later said, “I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for.”
Who did the oil painting?
Enstrom’s daughter, Mrs. Rhoda Nyberg of Coleraine, Minnesota. She painted numerous paintings of the original photo.
What about the similar picture of the old woman bowed in prayer?
It, too, is a photo, called “Gratitude,” taken in the 1960s by Jack Garren, who owned a Christian bookstore in Centralia, Illinois. The subject is Mrs. Myrtle Copple (d. 1975), and the photo was designed to complement “Grace.” The two are often packaged together: “Grace and Gratitude.”