December 21, 2023 | Last updated Dec 7, 2023

Christmas in Falls City

Twinkling lights, crisp winter air, bright packages adorned with bows, festive food–no matter what holidays you celebrate (or don’t), the holiday season can be a magical time. Nebraska artist John Falter captured the hustle and bustle in his 1946 painting “Falls City, Nebraska at Christmas,” the Saturday Evening Post cover in the December 12, 1946 edition. Falter chose a birds-eye-view of Main Street with evergreen garlands hanging overhead and Christmas trees lining the sidewalks. World War II had ended just fourteen months before, and the cheerful decorations suggest a country celebrating after long years at war. Despite the holiday cheer, the cloudy sky evokes that this is still a blustery Nebraska winter.


Falls City at Christmas Saturday Evening Post Cover

The cover the December 12, 1946, Saturday Evening Post. Click here to see the original image.

 

The painting was the centerpiece of an exhibit on John Falter at the Nebraska History Museum in 2012. It was in good condition but needed a little help to be exhibit-ready. The canvas has slackened in its stretcher over the years, and the corners had become distorted. And as is typical, the varnish had yellowed over time.

 

Falls City at Christmas before treatment

 

Falls City at Christmas detail before treatment

The painting before treatment overall (left) and a detail of the upper right corner (right).  In the photo on the right, the yellow varnish is visible in the sky.

Painting Conservator, Kenneth Bé, removed the painting from its stretcher and used damp blotter paper and weights to flatten the corners gently.  The painting was re-stretched on a stretcher to the proper tension.  The old varnish was removed, and a new varnish was applied, bringing Falter’s vibrant colors back to life.

 

Falls City at Christmas after treatment

 

Falls City at Christmas detail after treatment

The painting after treatment overall (left) and a detail of the upper right corner (right).  The yellow varnish has been replace and a new, clear varnish has been applied, making the original colors stand out.

 

You can read more about the painting and the Falter exhibit at https://history.nebraska.gov/sites/history.nebraska.gov/files/doc/publications/NH2012JFalter.pdf

You can find more of Falter’s Saturday Evening Post cover art at https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/artists/john-falter/.


From the Ford Center Staff and History Nebraska, we wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

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