Anew painting of Jesus Christ by Salt Lake City artist Keith Eddington now greets visitors to the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
"The Savior is shown in resurrected glory, appealing to all of us to take advantage of His supreme sacrifice by coming unto Him and sharing the blessings of eternal Godhood," said Brother Eddington in describing the artwork.The oil painting is nine feet high and 61/2 feet wide. It hangs on the north wall of the west lobby of the Legacy Theater, where visitors can see it as they arrive to see the movie "Legacy." Lettered on the wall above the painting are words adapted from Doctrine and Covenants 19:16: "Behold, I have suffered these things for all."
Brother Eddington said inspiration for the painting came from a much smaller painting he did that hangs in a Detroit, Mich., stake center.
During a visit to Detroit several years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, was favorably impressed by the artwork, said Brother Eddington. That led to the granting to Brother Eddington a commission to paint the much larger canvas.
The painting was installed during the week of April general conference.
Brother Eddington said he used formal symmetry in the work to express order, harmony, and conformity. "The figure is clothed entirely in white to symbolize His purity and divinity, to ensure an uncluttered, simple shape for His figure, and to reinforce the radiance of His transmitted light," the artist explained.
Neither ancient nor modern scriptures give a complete description of the Savior, Brother Eddington pointed out. And since Hebrew laws of His time didn't allow images, it is unlikely any pictures or statues were made of Him during His lifetime. Therefore, the artist said he tried to capture in the facial features some of the royal, Davidic lineage that would have come through Mary and the tribe of Judah.
Jerusalem, as it appeared during the Savior's lifetime, is represented at the bottom of the painting. Looking east across the city, the Temple Mount and its temple are visible, and immediately behind it is the Garden of Gethsemane. Above the temple is the Mount of Olives. In the middle ground to the right is Bethany with the Dead Sea in the distance.
Brother Eddington said: "In the painting, the Savior has indeed overcome the world – the earth and gravity, the Holy City and His persecutors, even mortal death. This living, personal Redeemer beckons to us with open arms to pattern our lives after His."
Brother Eddington, who was born in Philadelphia and raised in Lehi, Utah, finished the oil painting in one year. Before beginning, he drew sketches of the place in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, still unfinished, where the painting would hang.
He then went about combining several elements – the painting, the calligraphy above it, the gilded frame with the curved top – to make a holistic statement. "It's reinforced by the architectural art that was there in the original building," he said. He conceived the entire area – the painting, frame, and wall – as a total, unified idea.
Brother Eddington, currently a high priests group instructor, resides with his wife, June, in the East Mill Creek 4th Ward, Salt Lake East Mill Creek Stake.
He has served on several special general Church committees, and prior to the organization of the Church Art Department, designed printed materials for major Church projects. He designed the new Church hymnbook that was published in 1985.
He has also served in various ward and stake callings including counselor in a bishopric.
His artistic talents are varied, and his career in art is especially impressive considering he started out studying pre-med at the University of Utah.
His career path changed after he was drafted during World War II and met prominent artist Arnold Friberg in France. Later, Brother Eddington arranged for Brother Friberg to move to Utah and teach at the University of Utah. Brother Friberg encouraged Brother Eddington to develop his talent for art.
Upon returning to the University of Utah, Brother Eddington did turn to art and earned a master's degree in fine arts. He was trained in fine art and commercial art, and went on to use both in his profession. He also graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Art.
A teaching career began when he was a graduate student at the university. He taught figure drawing and substituted as instructor for the portrait class when his good friend, and the man who directed him toward portraiture, Professor Alvin Gittins, was on sabbatical.
After teaching in the University of Utah art department for 17 years, Brother Eddington devoted his time to a professional career.
He designed, illustrated, directed the art work, and wrote copy for advertising. The clients he worked for included Cadillac, Dow Chemical, Transamerica, and Motorola.
Returning to academia in 1980, Brother Eddington was a professor of design for nine years at BYU. He taught graphic design, illustration, history of writing, typography, bookmaking, and calligraphy.
He was also a professional consultant for IBM and Pillsbury in the United States and Canon in Japan.
Having toured and collected specimens worldwide relating to the history of writing and typography, he often is invited to speak and share his expertise with graphic design classes and professional groups.
He has toured many parts of the world to do research on painting, calligraphy, printing and illustration.
He is the son of a medical doctor, and his interest in medicine resulted in a three-month trip around the world to study sanitization. The purpose of the trip was to study and document through photography the means by which ancient and modern cultures around the world obtained, or now obtain, water for sanitary purposes.
Upon retirement in 1989, he built a studio adjacent to his home and returned to one of his first loves – portraiture.
Among the well-known personalities he has painted are former Utah governor Norman H. Bangerter; Heidi Friberg, wife of Arnold Friberg; and Gen. Primary Pres. Michaelene Grassli.