The depiction of events prior to, during, and following the birth of Christ has been a favorite topic among Western artists for centuries. African American artists–and especially those who are self-taught–portray myriad versions of the Christmas story, as can be observed in the paintings of Linda Bruton.
Born in 1950 in Pineview, Georgia, Bruton began painting in 1985 as an expression of her religious faith, gathering inspiration for her compositions from her daily Bible readings. Bruton's religious paintings are not limited to traditional themes and depict scenes such as The Annunciation to Joseph (an angel instructs him to wed the expectant Mary), The Wedding of Mary and Joseph, The Annunciation to the Wise Men, An Angel Tells the Wise Men to Take Another Route (the Wise Men are lost), Joseph and the Inkeeper, and The Visitation between Mary the Mother of Jesus and Elizabeth the Mother of St. John the Baptist (the two expectant cousins rejoice about the news of their unborn sons). That Burton is very familiar with the Bible is evident in her representation of these non-traditional themes. The paintings included in this article were completed in 1997 and are the result of a special commission. The artist has also painted smaller versions that she displays in her home during the Christmas season.