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Christ Walking on Water

1951 B. J. O. Nordfeldt Born: Tullstorp, Sweden 1878 Died: Henderson, Texas 1955 oil on canvas 38 x 47 in. (96.5 x 119.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Arvin Gottlieb 1991.205.14 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 33B

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Christ Walking on Water

Luce Center Label

Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt objected when his dealer first suggested painting religious imagery. He exclaimed to a friend: "Religious paintings!!! God knows what was in their minds. I explained that I was entirely irreligious and couldn't do it." But he later created several images based on biblical stories because he enjoyed combining religious symbols with semiabstract compositions (Hunter, B. J. O. Nordfeldt: An American Expressionist, 1984). Here, the brightly colored shapes and zigzagging waves create an eye-catching pattern, so that we do not immediately notice the figure in the center. This suggests the artist was equally concerned with the relationships between different shapes as he was with the story behind the painting. In the Bible, Jesus walked on water to demonstrate the power of faith to his disciples. Nordfeldt emphasized this message with Christian symbols such as the doves, which represent the Holy Spirit, and the fish, which are a reminder of Jesus's miracles.


Animal - bird - dove

Animal - fish

Religion - New Testament - Christ



paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About B. J. O. Nordfeldt

Born: Tullstorp, Sweden 1878 Died: Henderson, Texas 1955

More works in the collection by
B. J. O. Nordfeldt