November 7, 2017
C.C.A. Christensen (1831-1912), Saints Driven from Jackson County Missouri, c.1878, tempura on muslin, 77 1/4 x 113 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of the grandchildren of C.C.A. Christensen, 1970.
On this day in 1833, the Mormon Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, began fleeing from mob violence and relocating across the Missouri River into Clay County. Religious intolerance, misunderstandings, and opposition to the growing Mormon presence prompted vigilante attacks in Jackson County. Here Christensen depicted the human drama in the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints. He personalized the tragic scene by representing ordinary people of all ages–infants, children, men, women, and the elderly. Even a family pet is included as it nips at the heels of an attacker. The figures in the foreground appear in a broad band across the front of the painting in a format similar to the narrative friezes on Greek temples. Each of the three groupings of figures tells its own individual story. For example, in the arrangement at the left, the two mobsters act as parentheses around the man on the ground and the woman who pleads for his life. Christensen identified the victim as John Bennett, who, after being beaten, lay unconscious for several days.
A Danish convert to Mormonism, C.C.A. Christensen attended the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen briefly after which His studies interrupted by a mission call. He served in both Denmark and Norway prior to his 1857 immigration to gather with the Saints in the American West. In 1878, Christensen started touring his panorama paintings throughout the Mormon colonies with the ambition of educating to the rising generation as to the heroic acts and consecrated sacrifices made by the previous generation of pioneers.