Paintings of Jesus by Warner Sallman

Some of the most famous American paintings of Jesus were done by artist Warner Sallman (1892-1968). If you grew up in a Christian environment (Protestant or Catholic), you’ve seen these pictures in your church and maybe had them in your home. Christianity Today did a write up on Sallman a while back. His two best known paintings are: “The Head of Christ“, and “Christ at Heart’s Door“.

Some say that these the pictures have outlived their usefulness – that they are a bit of a “Velvit Elvis” (something unique to the older generation, that younger people don’t find helpful). They have also been criticized for making Jesus look too soft and too European. I appreciate the criticisms, but like the pictures anyway. My favorite is “Christ at Heart’s Door“. It is based on a passage from Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

When I was growing up, Dad had “Christ at Heart’s Door” hung in his study. I remember asking Dad why Jesus was knocking on the door. He explained that the door represented my heart. If I asked Jesus to come in, he would. These sorts of conversations with Dad bring back fond memories.

It’s interesting to note some of the Arminian aspects of the painting, First, Christ is knocking on the door, not kicking it in. Second, there is no handle to the door, the person inside needs to open it.

Lastly, it’s interesting how these pictures have represented a sort of “icon” for American Protestants. While icons are common to some other Christian traditions, American Protestants have generally avoided them.


Filed under Jesus, Warner Sallman

23 responses to “Paintings of Jesus by Warner Sallman

  1. Your comment that the picture is of Christ knocking, not kicking in, made me laugh. Gave me an image of Christ in full SWAT gear kicking in a door with a team of angels also in SWAT gear behind Him. :)I also like your point about icons. I’ve noticed that some Protestants take the Orthodox approach to art without knowing it (adorning paintings in their homes, using it to tell stories and worship, etc) while others take a very Nestorian approach (no pictures at all, and crosses are left out because *gasp* a cross might be idolatry!).

  2. Thanks for the comments Tony!

  3. Thanks for making this post!JNORM888

  4. I have both of these paintings. I also like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

  5. Jnorm, glad you enjoyed it!Dawn, I like that one too.

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  7. mujtaba

    very amazing man i like it and iam from afghanistan and i proud for you so so nice.

  8. Charlie Curtis

    I like the Jesus in John 20 where he comes through locked doors. Jesus comes without invitation and meets us where we least expect it!

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  12. Brenda Zimmerman

    When i was a child, we had a picture of Christ knocking at the door, which was framed in purple and had a caption at the bottom that went something like this; If you are letting him in think of what blessings will come to your home, if you are turning him away, think of what misfortune may come to you and yours. Has anyone ever seen a copy of this?

  13. Pingback: Pinturas de Jesucristo del Artista Warner Sallman | Wesleyano Y Arminiano

  14. Rev. Duane Hoard

    These paintings are not kept in stock in book stores any more. However I was able to google them. The last time I saw Christ at the door, I was just a young wiper-snapper. The other day I was reading Rev. 3:20 when this painting appeared in my mind. After a through search, I realized that google was my last resort, and there it was! Rev. D. L. Hoard

  15. jef Grace

    Anyone see what I see… in the painting itself? The light and shadow and some of the architecture making the shape of a (valentine) heart?

    I just noticed this the other day, after years of looking at this, at various times. Well done Warner Sallman! – jef


    Dear Sir, I like the pic Head of Christ very much since my childhood. Now i am about 55. I saw this pic lying in my maternal grandfather’s Holy Bible which he given to my father, and my father gave me that Bible with that pic. God may bless the Artist who made this pic with his hard work and interest and love for Jesus Christ.

  17. Mrs B

    We received “The Head of Jesus” picture in a beautiful gold frame from a co-worker of mine. We took the picture to our Catholic Priest today to have it blessed, Father brought to our attention, two icon features of this picture… has anyone else noticed, that in the center of Jesus’ forehead is the shape of the Eucharistic “HOST” and on the right side at the temple, is the shape of the Eucharistic “CHALICE”? Be Blessed!

  18. Tina Parker

    I still have these 2 paintings. They hung in my Grandmothers house as long as I can remember. And the were handed down to me, I love them both, to me they are priceless.

  19. Connie B

    I had this picture of Jesus standing at the door knocking in my Bible and have always loved it. I now have this picture hanging in my dinning room.

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