Sallman Painting Featured in Åland Islands Stamp

CHICAGO, IL (January 12, 2010) – Warner Sallman’s ubiquitous painting, Head of Christ, soon will make its first-ever appearance on a postage stamp.

The stamp will be released March 24 in the Åland Islands, an autonomous province of Finland situated between that country and Sweden. Sallman’s father, Elias Sallman, emigrated to the United States from the Åland Islands in 1886.

Warner Sallman was born April 30, 1892, and died May 25, 1968. He was a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The Head of Christ, Sallman’s most famous image, was painted in 1940 in his Chicago studio. The painting first gained widespread popularity when reproductions were sent as wallet-sized cards to U.S. soldiers during World War II. Since then, although it has been reproduced more than 500 million times in various forms – from art prints to clocks – the image has never been featured on a postage stamp.

The stamp features the Head of Christ painting surrounded by a gold border. The full press sheet includes 30 stamps — 15 on the left and 15 on the right.

The middle of the sheet features the name of Warner Sallman set in stylized script, flanked by two of Sallman’s other well-known works: Christ at Heart’s Door and The Lord is My Shepherd. The first-day cover also features Christ at Heart’s Door, and a cancellation mark that features a stylized “WS” for Warner Sallman.

The decision to feature Sallman’s work has been in the plans for about 10 years, said Anita Häggblom, director of Åland Post Stamps. Details are still being discussed for distribution of the stamps in the United States.

Sallman worked as a freelance illustrator and produced religious imagery for a variety of publications. The Head of Christ was first a charcoal sketch called “The Son of Man,” which appeared on the cover of The Covenant Companion in 1924.

It attracted so much attention that Sallman painted the oil version, which he entitled, “The Head of Christ,” in 1940. Sallman reproduced the painting and chalk drawing at numerous Covenant churches.

Sallman’s other artwork has played a role in the life of individual Covenant churches. For example, Sallman painted his first mural, “The Ascension,” in 1926 for the Evangelical Covenant Church in South Bend, Indiana, which was then known as the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant Church.

When the church decided to change locations, it focused its architectural plans around Sallman’s mural, which is located in the church narthex and visible from the street where the church is located. Sallman even visited the church and touched up the mural in 1959, one of several restorations of the piece.

To view more examples of the artist’s work and learn about his life, click here to visit the official Warner Sallman website.

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