Carl Christian Anton Christensen


recorded the story of the founding of the Mormon faith and the Mormon trek west to Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in a series of large paintings that he began in 1869,twelve years after he participated in the great migration himself. Born in Copenhagen, Christensen joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as theMormon faith is formally known, while he still resided in Denmark. He pushed a two-wheeled cart 1,300 miles from Iowa to the Salt Lake Valley in 1857 as a member of one of the pioneering Mormon “handcart companies.” He was a missionary, journalist, and historian as well as an artist.Christensen’s most ambitious work was his Mormon panorama, a series of 22 tempera paintings on canvas that he completed in 1890. Measuring as many as 8-by-10 feet each, these paintings were sewn together, then rolled onto a large wooden rod. The artist used the panorama to illustrate his public lectures about MormonChurch history, beginning with the revelation in 1827 of the golden tablets of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, and culminating in the arrival in 1847 of theMormons under Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Valley. As Christensen spoke to his audiences, his panorama would be unrolled and displayed by lamplight.While still in Denmark, Christensen received some training at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Art, but his work has less in common with the formal traditions of academic art than with the direct, stylized aesthetic and narrative spirit of folk painting. His well-composed paintings take full advantage of the dramatic qualities of theMormon story. Each image provides a detailed and colorful visual account of an important incident in the history of the church: the murder of Smith in Carthage, Illinois,in 1844; the burning of the temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1848; and the miraculous deliverance of the Saints as they moved westward to Utah.In addition to his panorama, Christensen painted individual studies of events in Mormon history, generally using oil paint on canvas. He is also responsible for the“creation” murals in the temple in Manti, Utah. An honored member of his church, Christensen died in Ephraim, Utah.
See also
Painting, American Folk; Religious Folk Art
Bishop, Robert.
Folk Painters of America.
New York, 1979.Oman, Richard G., and Robert O.Davis.
Images of Faith: Art of the Latter-Day Saints.
Salt Lake City, Utah, 1995.Wheelwright, Loren F., ed.
Mormon Arts.
Provo, Utah, 1972