Christ Walking on Water

  • B. J. O. Nordfeldt, Christ Walking on Water, 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Arvin Gottlieb, 1991.205.14

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.

Christ Walking on Water
3847 in. (96.5119.4 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Arvin Gottlieb

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Religion – New Testament – Christ
  • Animal – bird – dove
  • Waterscape
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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