Joy to the World: The Christmas Story by Visionary Painter Linda Bruton

Time Period
1925 to Today
Topics
Art & Architecture
Black History
Holiday & Traditions
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Interior scene shows angel at left and three men at right. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
An Angel Tells the Wise Men to Take Another Route by Linda Bruton (1997)

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.

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The Nativity scene
The Nativity by Linda Bruton (1997)

As in the case of most self-taught artists, Bruton works in flat, bright colors, employing magic markers and using tipped-up perspective as can be seen in The Nativity and the bed in The Angel Directs Joseph to take Mary and the Baby Jesus to Egypt. The patterned quilt on Joseph's bed reflects Bruton's interest in quilt making and is similar to some of the quilts that she has crafted. The scenes are void of shadows or spatial depth, and the generous use of glitter for embellishments causes the paintings to twinkle with the joy of the Christmas season. Bruton's depiction of the Three Wise Men is especially engaging and somewhat non-traditional. Bruton is a fashionably-attired lady, and her love of beautiful clothing is reflected in the respendent attire worn by the holy figures. 

Linda Bruton belongs to the younger generation of African American visionary painters and her works are not well-known beyond Georgia. She is, however, a talented designer and colorist who clearly loves the Christmas season and delights in depicting the events related to the birth of Christ.

Browse below to see selections from her "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series, created using mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.

Artworks provided courtesy of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia (BHMVA); gift from Regina Perry to the BHMVA. Article text modified from an exhibition panel provided courtesy of the BHMVA. 

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An angel is standing to the right and Mary is kneeling on the left. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
Annunciation to Mary

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. An angel is standing to the right and Mary is kneeling on the left. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0003. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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An angel is on the left and Joseph is standing on the right.
Annunciation of Joseph

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. An angel is on the left and Joseph is standing on the right. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0004. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Joseph is on the right, Mary is in the middle, and officiant is on the left holding a Bible. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Wedding of Mary and Joseph

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Joseph is on the right, Mary is in the middle, and an  officiant is on the left holding a Bible. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0005. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Two women in an interior scene. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Visitation between Mary the Mother of Jesus and Elizabeth the Mother of St. John the Baptist

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Two women in an interior scene. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0006. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Interior scene with inkeeper behind a counter and Joseph facing him. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
Joseph and the Innkeeper

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Interior scene with inkeeper behind a counter and Joseph facing him. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "L. Bruton 199[7]" and "Joseph and Innkeeper / Luke 2:1-7 and Matt 1:18-21." (BHM.0007. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Interior scene with Jesus in manger in center surrounded by Mary and three men. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Nativity

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Interior scene with Jesus in manger in center surrounded by Mary and three men. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0008. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Outdoor scene shows angel on the right, three shepherds on the left, and two sheep in the center. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Annunciation to the Shepherds

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Outdoor scene shows angel on the right, three shepherds on the left, and two sheep in the center. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0009. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Outdoor scene shows angel on the right and three men on left. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Annunciation to the Wise Men

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Interior scene shows angel at left and three men at right. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0010. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Interior scene shows angel at left and three men at right. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Angel Directs the Wise Men to Take Another Route

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Outdoor scene shows angel on the right and three men on left. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0011. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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 Interior scene shows elderly man on left holding baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph on the right. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Innkeeper Simmon with the Holy Family

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Interior scene shows elderly man on left holding baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph on the right. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997"  and "To die in Peace." (BHM.0012. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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 Interior scene shows man seated in throne at center, two men with their backs to the viewer on the right, and three men on the left - one facing the viewer and two with their back to the viewer. 
Caesar Augustus Send His Men to Slay All Newborn Boys

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Interior scene shows man seated in throne at center, two men with their backs to the viewer on the right, and three men on the left - one facing the viewer and two with their back to the viewer. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0013. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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 Interior scene shows angel on the right and man in bed on the left. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Angel Directs Joseph to take Mary and the Baby Jesus to Egypt

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Interior scene shows angel on the right and man in bed on the left. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0014. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)

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Outdoor scene shows the Holy Family on camel back facing a starry sky. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter.
The Flight into Egypt

Part of "Joy to the World: The Christmas Story" series by Linda Bruton. Outdoor scene shows the Holy Family on camel back facing a starry sky. Mixed media, including magic marker and glitter. Signed "Linda Bruton 1997." (BHM.0015. Gift from Regina Perry to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia.)