I’m sure I’ve seen this picture dozens of times – in people’s homes, in Christian gift shops, on web sites. I always assumed that it was from some other part of the country – just because northern Minnesota is pretty far removed from the usual commercial networks.
But I was wrong. Today’s Duluth News Tribune reported the death of Rhoda Nyberg, daughter of photographer Eric Enstrom, of the small mining town of Bovey, Minnesota. I always thought that “Grace” was a painting, but it is, in fact, a painted photograph. A little digging reveals the story: Eric invited a traveling peddlar to dinner, and asked him to pose for a photograph – arranging a Bible, a bowl of gruel and some bread. Eric said “he seemed to take the pose naturally.”
Eric knew he had something special in the 1918 photo, and took it to some photography exhibits. He was able to sell many prints of it by framing them and putting them in his front window. His daughter Rhoda, who studied fashion and painting, began to paint – to colorize – her father’s black-and-white photographs. She painted “Grace” and added a window with light streaming in – and it became a hit.
Rhoda died this week at the age of 95 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, not far from her hometown of Bovey. And so it’s only now – with the stories of her death – that I discover that this picture is one more of the spiritual gifts of the Northland.
- Bovey painter helped make ‘Grace’ picture famous (duluthnewstribune.com)