Chapter 2: Proclaiming the Gospel Through Art

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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.

Moroni Appearing to Joseph Smith by Tom Lovell. Oil on Linen, 14 ½ x 10 in.

Moroni Appearing to Joseph Smith by Tom Lovell. Oil on Linen, 14 ½ x 10 in.

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.

For more on the 1964 World's Fair, listen to our special podcast episode here.