Artist Barbara Nessim Creates a New Look at The Story of Christmas

Share Article

Two large scale paintings are accessible to the public.

The purpose of the indirect reference is because I wanted the viewer to see the work without preconception

Past News Releases


Thousands of Holiday tourists visit Rockefeller Center’s famous Christmas tree and decorations in celebration of the season, yet just across the street, a new interpretation of the story of Christmas awaits.

Located in the Centria Building, (18 West 48 Street) directly facing Rockefeller Plaza, two large scale paintings (12’ x 13’), 'The Night is Silent' and 'A Trinity of Sages' explore the focal story of the season. Most people might not notice them, because they are not green and red or covered in sparkles. Yet here is a reverent depiction of the power and mystery of The Holy Event in a decidedly contemporary visual voice. Furthermore, these works offer a spiritual alternative to the otherwise secular representation of Christmas in Rockefeller Center. The two paintings are visible from the street outside Centria and are accessible to the general public.

The artist is Barbara Nessim. An internationally known artist, illustrator and educator, her paintings and drawings are part of public and private collections worldwide, including of The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, and have been shown in The Louvre in Paris. Well known for her commercial illustrations (Levi Strauss, Ralph Lauren and Doubleday books), Nessim's artwork has also appeared in many publications and has graced the covers of Time, Rolling Stone, as well as the Sunday Magazines of both the New York Times and Boston Globe.

Installed in March of 2007, this is the first Christmas for these paintings, giving visitors and New Yorkers alike an opportunity to experience a new work of art that celebrates the true spirit of the season.

The two painting titles: The Night is Silent, and A Trinity of Sages are allusions to "Silent Night" and "The Three Wise Men."

“The purpose of the indirect reference is because I wanted the viewer to see the work without preconception,“ explains Nessim. “I thought it distracting if the viewer began singing Silent Night in their mind when looking at the image. And The Three Wise Men have been depicted in countless ways throughout the centuries. At the same time, I wanted these works to be relevant to their location, directly facing Rockefeller Center, which has become synonymous with Christmas. The works are less obvious in their connection to the Nativity, they avoid the commercialization of their surroundings and offer a uniquely spiritual visual experience.”

Nessim continues, “In The Night is Silent the cone shaped, dotted line, positioned lower left on an (ever)green field is my homage to     the Christmas tree. The dotted line has two meanings. They are "lights" on the tree in-between the spaces and the tree is ever-present in the imagination of most people when they visit Rockefeller Center.

The tip of the tree is reaching for the star in the night sky. The shapes that dance around are abstractions of stars in yet to be discovered constellations. The figure on the right is in solemn contemplation, thankful and humbled by the "Event", the birth of Christ.

The second piece, A Trinity of Sages depicts The Three Wise Men looking up towards the heavens. They are small in scale when compared to the omnipresent "Madonna" who is viewing them from her heavenly position. She also is looking down at her newborn baby Jesus, hidden from our view, who is in the presence of the wise men. Her hand is positioned to fend off any outside intruders. The glow on her face is the Light of the Lord within her. The three wise men are in the light as well and are "touched" by the Lord to witness, as well as be in the presence of The Holy Event.

The remaining shapes are from the sea and the earth.. The sea creature is fish-like with a spine of bones that curl in a spiral like form. Rising from the sea to the land it’s the beginning of life. The form that inhabits the earth is at once tree like and industrial. Sitting in a field of purple haze shares the space and color of royalty Industry and nature co-exists."

The Night is Silent and A Trinity of Sages are the result of a two-year journey. Nessim integrated the use of the computer, along with traditional media, to create the two large-scale digital paintings. The paintings were originally produced in a smaller proportion, with blocks of vivid watercolor and graceful black ink lines drawn with a brush. Next, the pieces were scanned into the computer and translated into their final sizes, 12' x 13'. Both images were meticulously perfected using a combination of Photoshop filters, tools, and techniques. Once the images were finished digitally, their production was carefully choreographed between the artist, printer, stretcher, installer, and architect. The final pieces were printed on canvas using a Roland printer, stretched, and fit precisely into recesses, flush with the wall. The effect is simultaneously visually stimulating and peaceful.

Permission to shoot the paintings can be arranged. Digital images can be secured upon request.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Cinnia Finfer

Email >
Visit website