Warner Sallman

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Head of Christ, 1940

Warner Sallman (April 30, 1892 – May 25, 1968) was an American painter from Chicago best known for his works of Christian religious imagery. He worked in commercial advertising, as well as a freelance illustrator.[1] He is most associated with his portrait of Jesus, Head of Christ, of which more than 500 million copies have been sold.[2][3] In 1994, the New York Times wrote he is likely to be voted the "best-known artist of the century".[4]


Warner Elias Sallman was the eldest of three children born to Elias Sallman and Christiane (Larson) Sallman who were immigrants from Finland and Sweden. He trained by apprenticing in local studios while attending the Chicago Art Institute at night. There he became a protégé of Walter Marshall Cluett, a newspaper illustrator noted for his work during the Spanish–American War. He initially was affiliated with local studios until he opened his own. In 1916, he married Ruth Anderson, whom he met while both were singing in the church choir.[5]

Sallman was a lifelong member of the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant of America (which was later renamed the Evangelical Covenant Church), an Evangelical Protestant denomination.[6]


Sallman is best known for his Head of Christ, which was designed in 1940, and has sold over 500 million copies that are used in churches of several Christian denominations, as well as for private devotional use.

Sallman is also well known for his rendition of the popular image Christ at Heart's Door. Other popular images produced from 1942 to 1950 include Christ in Gethsemane, The Lord is My Shepherd, and Christ Our Pilot.

The vast collection of his original works, including Head of Christ, is owned by Anderson University. Warner Press, the publishing arm of the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, holds the copyright and distribution rights to all Warner Sallman images.[7]

Sallman also created a lesser-known work called The Ascension of Christ.

Sallman's "The Ascension of Christ" mural in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Photo by Derrick Hautamaki.

The painting is owned by and located in the First Covenant Church, Iron Mountain, Michigan. It measures 20 feet wide by 23 feet high. The painting was done in one of the large meeting rooms on the campus of North Park College (now University) in Chicago and shipped in two large rolls to Iron Mountain where it was installed by the men of the church on the wall above the choir loft. Sallman came to Iron Mountain to put finishing touches on the painting and attend the dedication at First Covenant Church in May, 1952. It is believed to be the largest painting done by the artist.

Sallman named the eleven apostles in the painting (from left to right) James, the lesser; Philip; Matthew; Thaddeus; James, the elder, son of Zebedee; Thomas, the doubter; John, brother of James; Andrew, brother of Simon Peter; Simon Peter, now shepherd of the flock; Simon, the Zealot; Bartholomew. The full figure of Christ can be seen from any elevation when entering the church.[8]

Related reading[edit]

  • Lundbom, Jack R (2015) Master Painter: Warner E. Sall (Wipf and Stock; Eugene, Oregon) ISBN 978-1498223416
  • Morgan, David (1996) Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman (Yale University Press) ISBN 978-0300063424
  • Peterson, Sylvia E and Warner Sallman Story of Sallman's The Lord's Supper (Kriebel & Bates/Prt by Warner Press. 1950)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Todd, Jesse T. "Warner Sallman's Head of Christ". Warner Sallman's Jesus. Drew University. Archived from the original on 2005-09-03. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
  2. ^ Have You Seen This Man?, Art, Newsweek, July 2/July 9, 2007, p. 68 (The brief column replied to the title-question by saying "Probably, and looking exactly like this. Warner Sallman's 1940 oil painting The Head of Christ is believed to be the most reproduced religious work of art. ]It's been copied a billion times, if you include lamps, clocks and calendars.")
  3. ^ Mehegan, David (2004-01-17). "Personal Jesus". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
  4. ^ Grimes, William (12 October 1994). "The Man Who Rendered Jesus For the Age of Duplication". The New York Times. p. 13.
  5. ^ Tribute to Warner Sallman
  6. ^ The Face That's EverywhereArchived 2016-03-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Warner Sallman Collection". Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  8. ^ (125th Anniversary 1882–2007, First Covenant Church of Iron Mountain, Michigan. Booklet)

External links[edit]