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The Nativity

1956 Edward B. Webster Born: Florence, South Carolina Died: Malaga, Spain 1977 oil on canvas mounted on paperboard 21 7/8 x 27 7/8 in. (55.5 x 70.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase 1971.91 Not currently on view


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The Nativity is one of twenty-two paintings depicting the life of Christ done by Edward Webster over a span of twenty years (Hall, "Postman to Painter," Sepia, Dec. 1971). The infant is the focal point of the scene, as the light from the star spotlights him through the wooden roof. The three Magi, freshly arrived from the East, leave their camels and rush toward the stable to share in this moment. The animals bow their heads and focus on the child as if they, too, recognize the solemnity of the event. The painting's composition mimics that of a stage performance: the artist left a space between Joseph and the Magi for the viewer to participate in the scene; our view of the stable's interior and the goings-on outside are completely unobstructed. The expressive figures and dramatic lighting enhance this theatrical effect.

Keywords

Architecture Exterior - farm - barn

Landscape - celestial - star

Landscape - time - night

Religion - New Testament - Christ

Religion - New Testament - Joseph

Religion - New Testament - Magi

Religion - New Testament - Mary

Religion - New Testament - Nativity

painting

folk art

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

paperboard

About Edward B. Webster

Born: Florence, South Carolina Died: Malaga, Spain 1977