The Manly Art of Arnold Friberg

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 10, 2010 · 27 comments

in Blog

Last Thursday, a favorite artist of mine passed away. Arnold Friberg was an American artist and illustrator who was famous for his paintings depicting religious, western, and patriotic scenes. Some of his most well-known work include the movie posters for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and The Prayer at Valley Forge.

Two things I loved about Friberg’s work: First, the attention to detail. I remember as a boy I’d lose track of time staring at Friberg’s paintings. They’re just so darn interesting, and you feel like you’re transported right into the scene.

Second, the manliness of his art. His work has a grit and ruggedness that appeals to men. But more importantly, the characters in Friberg’s paintings give off a positive masculine energy that inspires me to be a better man. The men always look confident and assured of who they are in his paintings. I’m striving for that. It’s nice to have an image (even if it’s an idealized one) in front of you to inspire you to keep working so you can have that same manly confidence.

In honor of Arnold Friberg, I wanted to share with you all some examples of his manly art. Below, I’ve included a small collection of some of my favorite paintings.

Arnold Friberg

December 21, 1913 – July 1, 2010

Mind If I Join You, Gentlemen?

Tales of the Force

Prayer at Valley Forge

Dinner Companions

Into New Country

Knute Rockne at Notre Dame

1st Intercollegiate Game

Puffing Billy

End of the Day

All Images Copyrighted by Arnold Friberg and Used with the Permission of his Estate

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary Jo Oathout July 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Arnold’s art work is amazing and the details in his pieces are breathtaking.

2 Dan July 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I’ve always loved Prayer at Valley Forge. (even if some of his edge modeling is a trifle harsh for my tastes!)

3 Billy July 10, 2010 at 6:46 pm

For more of his work, pick up a modern copy of The Book of Mormon. He did all the illustrations and whether you follow its tenets or not, the artwork is amazing. Thank you for commemorating the life and work of a great man.

4 Kelly July 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Although I appreciate his works immensely, Friberg’s depiction of George Washington led to a gross misrepresentation among the general American public. Washington was a Deist, believing God set the universe in motion and refrains from interference, so he would never be found praying.

5 Morgan July 10, 2010 at 7:59 pm

George Washington was certainly NOT a Deist, as has been taught for some years now in public schools. Read any of his speeches and you are likely to find many references of Providence intervening in our nation’s early history- something a Deist certainly doesn’t believe ever happens.

6 Robert Palmar July 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

One need only read George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789
to see the importance of prayer for George Washington for himself and country
and his belief in divine intervention in men’s lives and the founding of the America.

From the father of our country:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

7 josh knowles July 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Thanks for sharing this. I wasn’t really familiar with Mr Friberg. I like his work, it’s nostalgic without (in my opinion) being sappy or sugary sweet. Being from north of the 49th, I appreciate the RCMP paintings a lot. Also, being from north of the 49th I shall abstain from discussing the religious persuasions of President Washington.

8 Nate @ Practical Manliness July 10, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I’ve always enjoyed the Prayer at Valley Forge, but I didn’t realize that the author was so recent.

As to Washington’s religion, the evidence completely concurs with Morgan and Robert.

These two quotes shed some light on his beliefs:

“To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”

“I now make it my earnest prayer that God would… most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion.”

Washington was a Christian, and he did believe in the effectual nature of prayer.

9 Sergiu July 11, 2010 at 5:03 am

Where can I see all his works?

10 Kevin July 11, 2010 at 7:03 am

Thank for sharing. I know the art but not the artist. I appreciate those who also appreciate art. Nothing unmanly about it.

To those stuck on Washingtons religious or lack of it… Enough already. It’s off topic. It’s about the man, not the subject.

11 Nate July 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Thank you for sharing this artist and his art. I wasn’t familiar with it and now I want to study everything he did. These are beautiful paintings. Does anybody know of any books about the artist and his works?

12 Frank July 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I wish to express my heartfelt love for a man I only knew through his paintings and biography. I have been motivated to be like those men my whole life. He painted his figures according to the greatness of their spirit.

13 John Forbes July 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

On Friberg: Was it all so simple then? Were good and bad so perfectly defined in clearest white and black? Was every guy always such a good trooper? Were all the males so gosh-darn brawny, the sunsets so lovely, or the piety so thick you could hack it was a saw?:Let’s not get all teary-eyed here. Friberg’s works are heavy on showing sentiment and light on depicting real men as the actually were in that fabulous “then” he illustrates.
As for George Washington, he was an initiated Freemason. I am one myself. Generally, Freemasons avoid any showboating of religious feelings or sentiments. And while Washington was a remarkable individual, it is too often overlooked that Our Founding Fathers were rich men who got much, much richer by starting their own little country and putting themselves in charge. These guys checked the contents of their purses far more often then they got all boo-hoo over Mom, apple pie and the flag.

14 Robert Palmar July 11, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Well somebody has his little panties in an uproar.

Of course, America was just a grand conspiracy
of evil rich men to make themselves even richer.

As for risking your fortune and your life in revolution,
the belief in the ideals of liberty and unalienable rights,
these are all a sentimental self-serving rewrite of history.

The self-proclaimed expert is always by definition suspect.

15 Josh Knowles July 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

“Were good and bad so perfectly defined in clearest white and black? Was every guy always such a good trooper? Were all the males so gosh-darn brawny, the sunsets so lovely, or the piety so thick you could hack it was a saw?”

As far as I am able to discern you could pretty much level this criticism against any art throughout history: from the cave paintings at Altamira and Lascaux on through the great masters like Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens and the rest, right up to Van Gogh and Picasso. Was David really ripped like that? Did the starry night really shine with colours that vivid? In one sense all art is a lie because the things it represents didn’t actually happen like that in real life. In another sense all art is truer than the most real things for it has the ability to reach out and apprehend us in our deepest yearnings as human beings.

16 W.D.G. July 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm

While I his artwork has a manly feel, I think it’s too cluttered. It’s Rockwell-que without the cleanliness.

17 James! July 12, 2010 at 8:31 am

I love them all. Thanks for the introduction.

18 Levi C. July 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I love Fribergs paintings, like previously mentioned he has done some amazing ones for the LDS Book of Mormon.
And I would like to share a little quote for our friend John, “Surrender the fort, in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” – Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen led the first American attack on the fort Fort Ticonderoga. Before saying the quote above he called out the to the British Commander call him an “Old Rat” Allen and all the other founding fathers knew exactly why this Country was so necessary, freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition and in my opinion most important, religion. And you can’t tell me that God did not have anything to do with United States winning the Revolutionary war. This country was founded on God, not money.

19 Carlo d. July 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I love the 1st Intercollegiate game painting! That’s my school RUTGERS versus Princeton!

20 Mike D July 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I was fortunate to have met Arnold Friberg and be invited into his home. I got to just talk to him about life, nothing truly in-depth, no stories from his life, but we just had a good talk. I also was able to see the original painting of the Prayer at Valley Forge. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

21 Dave July 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm

“you can’t tell me that God did not have anything to do with United States winning the Revolutionary war.”

Yes I can. Or are YOU going to tell me that the British, and the hundreds of thousands of ‘Tories’ and loyalists, and all the slaves who fled to British lines, were the Servants of Satan, or some such nonsense?

Meanwhile, you should read up some time on the subject of George Washington and land-speculation. Any credible biography will do. And while you’re at it, you could google the Oneida tribe and see what happened to their lands in the years after independence. A clue: they didn’t get to keep them.

22 J. Watson July 18, 2010 at 2:16 am

You can view more of his work and read more about Arnold, and even view a video of Arnold himself discussing his painting Prayer at Valley Forge–the inspiration, the research he did to make it historically accurate, etc. at‘friberg .
He really lived a fascinating life.

23 J.Watson July 18, 2010 at 2:18 am

The link above should have been:

24 Tryclyde August 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm

@ Kelly: You’re wrong. I’ve read many books about G.W. and he constantly referred to (prayed to) God (Providence), especially throughout The Revolution.

25 Tryclyde August 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Also, Mind If I Join You, Gentlemen? adorns the wall in my bar/poker/game room. Everyone that comes over compliments it.

26 J. DePrisco August 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm

George Washington died Catholic. There are three, separate traditions that support this: the order of priests to which belonged the priest who baptized him on his deathbed, a relative of Washington who asserted that it was told in the family, and the lineage of slaves who decended from the slaves present when he died who were witnesses. There is also a lot of circumstnatial evidence: he forbade the burining in effigy of the pope, he went to Mass sometimes, he made the sign of the cross, and he had a painting of Mary. Google it.

27 Rohit Ramachandran April 2, 2013 at 6:23 am

Great picks. Lot of virility and vigor.

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