Millions of people recognize the religious painting know as Head of Christ, of which an estimated five hundred million prints have been sold. Very few, however, know the artist, Warner E. Sallmann. Sallman's lack of notoriety in professional art circles can be explained by the fact that he made little or no attempt to put himself forward as a Chicago or even a Swedish American artist. He had no exhibitions of his works, and his public life consisted largely of appearances before church and community groups to do chalk drawings. More important was his attitude regarding personal fame. Sallman let the Christ he painted be in the foreground, while the artist remained in the background. "The time has come," argues Jack Lundbom, "for a broader public to know the man who stands behind the painting and the other artwork bearing the Sallman signature."
Master Painter is a fascinating story of a gifted man with humble beginnings who overcame disappointment, ill health, and personal limitations in order to live out a vision: that his art serve not only for the enjoyment of humankind, but the practical end of instructing persons in the ways of God. Readers who know the art can now know the artist. It is a story eminently worth telling and one a broad public will be interested to know.