When PBS aired Lee Groberg’s documentary, American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith, I was commissioned to do a new portrait of the prophet. I put a lot of research into this project and had some interesting things fall into place that helped me complete this painting.
The first thing I did was read everything I could find about Joseph Smith’s physical appearance. The most common description that I read about that I thought would help me most were all the comments about him being a handsome and charismatic man, and that he had unforgettable blue eyes. I studied paintings that had been done and read a lot about his personality. I wanted to capture that charisma that every description mentioned.
Something that really helped me with this painting was Joseph and Hyrum’s death masks. The originals had been cast shortly after the martyrdom. I received copies of the death masks from a fellow artist. I was able to paint Joseph’s portrait almost entirely from the mask, and I tried to add life and personality to his eyes. Joseph’s face on the death mask has this remarkable bit of a smile. I copied his mouth almost identically from the mask and I think it’s one of the strongest features on this painting.