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Andrew Krueger, Forum Communications Co., Published February 27 2012

Minnesota native who colorized famous photo 'Grace' dies at 95

DULUTH, Minn. – Eric Enstrom created “Grace.” His daughter, Rhoda Nyberg, helped spread it around the world.

Nyberg, whose hand-coloring of a simple yet powerful photo of a peddler in prayer helped make the picture one of the world’s most-reproduced images, died Feb. 21 in Grand Rapids. She was 95.

The photo of the man bowed before a humble meal was taken by Nyberg’s father in Bovey in 1918.

The image “just hit people right” during the Depression and afterward, said Nyberg’s daughter, Kris Mayerle of rural Bovey. “She was just very, very proud of the picture and of my grandpa.”

Nyberg was born and raised in Bovey the year before the famous photograph was made. She went to junior college in Coleraine and fashion design school in Minneapolis. She was working as a dress designer in Duluth when her father asked her to come home to help with the family photography studio.

Meanwhile, the popularity of “Grace” had developed slowly over time as the black-and-white image was featured in exhibitions and spotted by people passing through town.

Their paths crossed again when Nyberg learned how to hand-color photos. She used heavy oil paints to bring color to “Grace,” and sales of the image took off to the point that the family had to sell the publishing rights because they couldn’t keep up with demand.

It was Nyberg’s version that was used by the publisher, Mayerle said – it has been reproduced a million times, by some estimates. And that was the image recognized by the Minnesota Legislature and then-Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2002 as the state’s official photograph.


Andrew Krueger writes for the Duluth News Tribune