The Warner Sallman Collection

First day of school

by Julie Gilleand

I was 4 years old when I first remember seeing Sallman’s Head of Christ painting. Of course I didn’t know that was the name of it. I only knew it was a picture of Jesus and probably thought it was an actual picture of him! It was at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church a few blocks from my house. My mother had enrolled me in nursery school there and it was my first day. Naturally I was scared. Strange people and surroundings in a place I’d never been. My parents had never yet left me anywhere other than my grandparents’ houses. Oh, how I cried and wailed as my mother walked away and tried to run after her, but was held back. I seem to recall being told to sit on the bench in the foyer beneath that painting until I settled down. It’s all a very faded memory now after nearly 50 years, but what I do remember well is that this painting of Jesus, with the warm glow on his face and the gentle, kind eyes comforted me and made me feel safe, as if everything would be okay. And of course it was. But I have held that particular depiction of Jesus with all its kindness and warmth in my heart all these years. None other has affected me so wonderfully and powerfully as this one.

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