While stationed in Whitehorse, U.S Army Sergeant P.H. Pasco of the 18th Engineers Regiment attended service at the Christ Church in town. Sergeant Pasco presented the Church with a painting of the Nativity to show his appreciation to the church. The Nativity scene consists of the Mother and Child in the center flanked by the Magi to one side while animals and adorers are located on the opposite side.
The painting is unusual for two reasons. The first intriguing irregularity is the composition. Although the scene was painted by an amateur who would be more likely to stylize the painting on his own inspiration rather then canonical art, it is odd that Joseph does not have a more prominent position with the Holy Family. This is especially true since the piece is called The Nativity and not Madonna and Child, which would exclude Joseph from the scene. In fact, it is difficult to discern which figure is Joseph. Is he the suspiciously well dressed 'shepherd' to the extreme left or is he the kneeling figure in the foreground? Most would assume that Joseph is the crouching figure in the forefront of the canvas. He is in close proximity of the family and wearing the brown garments associated with the carpenter from Nazareth.
Incidentally, showing the back of a figure in a painting is an old trick employed by artists to engage their audience. It focuses the viewers while making them feel as if they are among the crowd viewing the scene. In this case, the back of the crouching Joseph leads the viewer's eye to the face of the Virgin Mary. Her face is highly sculpted and it is believe to have been modeled after a Hollywood actress. Two actresses of the era, Claudette Colbert and Vivien Leigh, have been suggested as the source. At the time of the donation, the church had relatively little artwork, the painting provided a much needed decoration for the church. The gift was greatly appreciated by the church and the congregation. Pasco's Nativity is still on display at the Old Log Church Museum in Whitehorse.
The building of the Alaska Highway brought many U.S Army personnel into the Yukon. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour during the Second World War, the U.S Army felt a need to protect its lands in remote areas. Increasing manoeuvrability into Alaska became a top priority. At the time, Alaska was only accessible by air and boat. The US army built the Alaska Highway so that troops could arrive there by means other then boat or air. The Alaska Highway project started April 11, 1942 and was officially open to military use on November 20th of the same year. During the construction of the highway U.S. Army regiments were stationed in various locations around the Yukon. Those stationed in Whitehorse were permitted to visit the town without passes. Despite the presence of an army chaplain, some soldiers chose to actively participate in religious services in town.
Old Log Church Museum, Whitehorse