President Kimball’s address was given just following the wildly successful Mormon Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. Held in New York City and running for a year, the World’s Fair had more than 51 million visitors who saw the first Ford Mustang, experienced Disney’s It’s a Small World, and saw Michelangelo’s Pieta, brought from the Vatican by the Catholic Church especially for the event. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at first reluctantly, reserved a space at the event at the behest of a local Stake President. More than 12,000 people a day visited the Mormon Pavilion. The decision had a huge impact on Church culture, including the fine arts.
Visitors were taken through a short, six-station program that explained the Church’s teachings. Led by missionaries, each station was anchored by a work of art, some of which have become foundational to Church culture, especially The Christus by Bertel Thorvaldsen (Danish, 1770-1844) and Christ Ordaining the Apostles by Harry Anderson(American, 1906-1996). The great success of the 1964 World’s Fair established, arguably for the first time, fine art for Proclaiming the Gospel. The Church would thereafter not only engage Anderson to do a series of monumental works depicting the life of Christ; but, it would also engage a number of artists, including John Scott (American, 1907-1987) and Anderson’s good friend Tom Lovell (American, 1909-1997) to do works that would be used in a number of other World’s Fairs.
Lovell, together with Harry Anderson and Norman Rockwell, was considered one of the nation’s greatest illustrators, at a time when there was little distinction between fine art and illustration. An admirer of Old Masters and trained to draw and paint the human figure, Lovell made a career working for the Saturday Evening Post and Week magazines, among others. In 1973, The Church commissioned Lovell to do a series of works depicting the coming forth of the Book of Mormon for the 1974 Spokane World’s Fair.
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