Monarch Landing resident Marilyn Miller has more than a casual interest in the artwork of Warner Sallman. Years ago, Miller’s mother worked for Sallman who at the time was a commercial illustrator, and is now considered to be the most well-known and prolific Christian artist of the 20th Century. “She worked for him right out of high school and as I was growing up, my mother would show me pictures that he’d given her,” Miller said.
Her mother, Miller said, could vividly recall when Sallman first drew the Head of Christ, which was to become the most reproduced piece of artwork in history. In 1924, he had been working on the cover illustration for a religious magazine. “My mother told me that she had gone to work in the office in his Chicago home, and he came into the studio saying that a vision or dream had come to him the night before as he had trouble falling asleep. He had quickly sketched a thumbnail of the image and he wanted to get it onto paper right away. When he immerged from the studio later, she told me that he was just beaming. He felt so good about the illustration that he had done,” said Miller. “She was a witness to something really special and significant. She always felt so privileged to have been in attendance when he was actually creating the picture, and then witnessing how it took off. My mother was always very impressed by Sallman, not only as an artist, but also how he lived his life.”
Sallman gave Miller’s mother several signed pictures over the years, including one of the Head of Christ.
Miller said that she was delighted to learn that Sallman’s work would be on display at Monarch Landing retirement community earlier this month, in an exhibit coordinated by Sallman expert LeRoy Carlson who travels the country with the Warner E. Sallman Art Collection. “We were happy that we had the opportunity to host this famous collection at Monarch Landing,” said Mark Trnka, executive director of Monarch Landing. “We have a very well-educated and diverse community at Monarch Landing. Almost everyone, despite their faith background, recognizes the Head of Christ, and our residents appreciated having an exhibit of this renown on site.” WTTW came to Monarch Landing to film a segment about the collection.