Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Coming of Color, 1956

The Coming of Color, 1956

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 12, 2013

To fully appreciate the revolution reported in this post, take a look at this page from the February 1956 magazine, The Instructor. The Instructor was the magazine of the Sunday School; it carried articles for teachers on new teaching techniques, for musical directors on hymn practice, for ward librarians on collecting and preserving teaching aids. The covers of the magazines were designed to be mounted and used in classroom lessons, and those covers were the only color illustrations. Illustrations inside the magazine were black and white photographs and line drawings, like the flannelboard story pieces shown here.

Something happened between the February issue of the magazine, with its black and white line drawings, and the March issue of the magazine: The Church printing plant installed new equipment, with the technology to print vibrant color. At first, color was used only for the magazine centerfold, with each issue carrying two pictures, or occasionally a double-page spread, designed to be removed from the magazine, mounted on cardboard, and stored in the ward library ready for use. Each illustration was accompanied by an article with information on the artist and the story it represented. These articles (not reproduced in this post) were to be cut out and pasted on the back of the mounted picture.

When all our magazines are filled with color today, it’s easy to overlook the power of color when it first appeared. I wonder if teachers in 1956 didn’t feel just a little bit like Dorothy, swept from black-and-white Kansas to full-color Oz?





Peter’s Denial
Painting by Ferdinand von Harrach

“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

–Luke 22:61




Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem
Painting by Bernhardt Plockhorst

“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

– Matthew 21:9



The Crucifixion
Painting by Jan Styka
Hall of the Crucifixion, Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale, California)




Hagar in the Wilderness
Painting by Benjamin West
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

The angel said, “… Lift up the lad, … for I will make him a great nation.”

– Genesis 21:18



Madonna and Child
Painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

“And the child grew, … and the grace of God was upon him.”

– Luke 2:40




The Apostle Paul
Painting by Rembrandt
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)

“The Lord said … he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, …”

– Acts 9:15




Christ Healing the Blind
Painting from Bolognese School
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota, Florida)

Jesus “… made him look up: and he was restored and saw every man clearly.”

– Mark 8:25



David Before Saul
Painting by Ernest Norman
Bettmann Archives (New York City)

“… David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well.”

– I Samuel 16:23




The Return of the Prodigal Son
Painting by Bartholome Esteban Murillo
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

–Luke 15:24





The Danish Mormon Missionary
Painting by Christian Dalsgaard
State Museum of Art (Copenhagen, Denmark)

The Gospel should be preached to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”

– Revelation 14:6




Joseph Sold by His Brothers
Painting by Domenico Maggiotto
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

“… And they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver …”

– Genesis 37:28


Noah and the Ark
Painting by Charles Willson Peale
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

“And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee, …”

– Genesis 6:19




Saint John as a Boy
Painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Prado Museum (Madrid, Spain)

“… He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, … And many … shall he turn to the Lord their God.”

– Luke 1:15, 16


The Departure of Lot and His Family from Sodom
Painting by Peter Paul Rubens
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota, Florida)

“… The angels hastened Lot, saying, … take thy wife, and thy two daughters, … look not behind thee. …”

– Genesis 19:15, 17




Arrival of the Shepherds
Painting by Henri Lerolle
Museum of Carcassonne (Carcassonne, Aude, France)

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”

– Luke 2:15, 16



  1. I wondered about Christian (or Christen) Dalsgaard, and found a Wikipedia entry about him. It says that this painting of the Danish Mormon Missionary was “his big breakthrough.”

    That’s interesting because Dalsgaard wasn’t a Mormon–so why did he choose this subject for his painting? And, what was it about this painting that made it a big deal in mid-19th century Denmark?

    Comment by Mark B. — September 12, 2013 @ 7:58 am

  2. Someone was asking me about the Dalsgaard painting a few weeks ago; I have a framed copy of the picture on my living room wall and put up a short blog post about it, so I just became the source of all knowledge about the picture. (Or so you would think, from the questions I’ve gotten.)

    The picture currently hanging on display in the Church History Museum is an Arnold Friberg copy of the original, which is in the Danish National Gallery in Copenhagen.

    The line Mark B. quotes from Wikipedia sounds like a Mormon urban legend, but according the website of the Skive Art Museum in Denmark, it’s actually true. They say (kindly translated by Google):

    “Mormons visiting a carpenter in the country” gets Christen Dalsgaard his breakthrough. The painting acquired by NL Høyen for “Company of the Nordic Art” even before it is displayed at Charlottenborg.

    The museum doesn’t answer Mark’s other questions directly, but this painting seems to be one in a series of folk paintings, and the story shown in the painting is interesting enough that you want to stand and look at all the details and wonder about how the people are related and what’s going on. (At least that’s how I’ve seen a number of people react to it.)

    Comment by Amy T — September 12, 2013 @ 8:57 am

  3. Beautiful!

    I wonder if teachers in 1956 didn’t feel just a little bit like Dorothy, swept from black-and-white Kansas to full-color Oz?

    Well said.

    Comment by David Y. — September 12, 2013 @ 10:15 am

  4. Riffing on the Oz bit, it does sort of look “Technicolor” with the over-saturated red in particular.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 12, 2013 @ 10:40 am

  5. The choice of images is also striking — museum-quality art instead of illustrations by the magazine staff.

    Clearly the staff thought they shouldn’t waste the color available to them on mundane subjects.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — September 12, 2013 @ 11:23 am

  6. Great find, Ardis. Do we know who the editor of the Instructor was when this happened? Also, was anything similar going on with the Church’s other magazines?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — September 12, 2013 @ 11:43 am

  7. I remember coming across some of those pictures (usually with a light blue title border, I think) in the mid ’70s, when I worked in the ward library as a new member. Amazing to be able to pinpoint such a key moment in what was then the most up-to-date technology; a bit like the Church launching an online presence, or the introduction of the latest youth curriculum, only less high-profile, so thanks, Ardis, for highlighting this.

    Comment by Alison — September 12, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  8. SO what lesson required an illustration of Hagar in the wilderness?

    Also, I thought the models for Lot’s family were a little overweight, and before correcting myself. They’re just “Rubenesque”

    Comment by The Other Clark — September 12, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  9. My mother dutifully lifted the staples and removed the centerfold of each issue and saved the pictures for use in Family Home Evening and other teaching occasions. I remember her collection and the way she added to it each month. (She actually glued flannel on the back of all of the flannel board stories.)

    Then, 30 years ago when I was involved with the first Primary in inner city Boston, we collected a bunch of old church magazines from the Cambridge Longfellow Street Chapel and cut out and prepared all of the flannel stories as the beginning of a branch library.

    Comment by LauraN — September 12, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  10. I grew up working in our family printing plant in Bountiful, Utah, started by my great-grandfather Lamoni Call. I was actually working there after school in 1956, although I don’t know exactly when my dad and his brothers bought their full-color press. I did watch the evolution of job printing in general in things like letterheads or business invoices, etc. being printed in black ink with another pass with a solid color, such as green, on a line beneath the lettering, or with a letter or word printed in a different color. Little by little things changed to the full color printing we now use. When this happened, my uncle printed a large poster showing a beautiful flower in yellow ink, then again with red overlay, then again with blue overlay, then with the final black overlay, showing a full color beautiful natural looking flower. It was part of their advertising strategy for several years.

    Comment by Maurine — September 12, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

  11. Thanks for sharing your memories, Maurine!

    Comment by David Y. — September 13, 2013 @ 10:10 am

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