Utah History Encyclopedia


By Robert S. Olpin

Avard Fairbanks with models for "Pony Express"

William W. Major (1804-1854) was the first Mormon painter to arrive in Utah (in 1848). From Great Britain, he spent five years headquartered in Great Salt Lake City painting portraits and making visits to various locations in the surrounding area in order to paint both landscapes and the faces of other settlers as well as of leaders among the indigenous Native American tribes. Meanwhile, virtually everything in the city of Salt Lake that could be in any way called sculpture was created by either the British woodcarver Ralph Ramsay (1824-1905) or the British stonecarver William Ward (1827-93).

The three most significant pioneer painters were Danquart Weggeland (1827-1918), a Norwegian; C.C.A. Christensen (1831-1912), a Dane; and George M. Ottinger (1833-1917), originally from Pennsylvania. Christensen's greatest achievement was the painting of numerous somewhat awkward but charming scenes showing episodes either from early Mormon history or from the Book of Mormon. Like Christensen, neither Ottinger nor Weggeland had much formal artistic training, but each produced a few somewhat more sophisticated figure and landscape paintings and advised their students to go east where they could study in Paris.

Certainly, that is what Deseret's young sculpture students would do; Parisian training played a major role in the artistic evolution of famed romantic realist bronze sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin (1861-1944), of Springville, Utah, as well as in that of Mt. Rushmore's sculptor, Gutzun Borglum (1867-1941) and his talented brother, Solon Borglum (1868-1922), both of Ogden, Utah.

In the meantime, the somewhat older pioneer Utah settlers English-born Alfred Lambourne (1850-1926), H.L.A. Culmer (1854-1914) and George Beard (1855-1944) rather admirably apprehended the hugeness of western American nature and painted panoramic and luminist (and later somewhat more painterly) landscape scenes in the manner of such artists and "Rocky Mountain School" visitors as Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) and Thomas Moran (1837-1926).

Somewhat later, upon their returns to Utah, the most accomplished of the students of Weggeland and Ottinger who had studied in Paris included the Barbizon-inspired tonal impressionist John Hafen (1856-1910); James T. Harwood (1860-1940), an academic realist figure painter and impressionistic landscape painter; portraitist John W. Clawson (1858-1936); post-impressionist Edwin Evans (1860-1946); A.B. Wright (1875-1952), a very gifted portraitist who became landscapist; and Utah's foremost portrait painter through the 1940s, Lee Greene Richards (1878-1950).

From the turn of the century onward both Evans and Harwood became very important painting teachers and art department chairmen at the University of Utah (1899-1919 and 1923-31 respectively). A list of their students includes not only Richards and Wright (university art chair, 1931-38) but also the gifted tonal impressionist LeConte Stewart (1891-1990), university art chair, 1938-56; figure and landscape painter Mary Teasdel (1863-1937); Donald Beauregard (1884-1914), a short-lived artist influenced by Monet, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Edwin Evans; Utah's first thoroughly innovative nontraditional painter ("modern artist"), Mabel Frazer (1887-1981), an assistant professor of art at the University of Utah for forty-two years; and, by no means least, the great early modern realist sculptor, draughtsman, printmaker, and painter, Mahonri Young (1877-1957).

The much expanded range of the above group was also significantly enlarged with the work of Frank Zimbeaux (1861-1935), a mystical romantic tonalist from the Midwest via Paris; fellow fauvists Henri Moser (1876-1951), Louise Richards Farnsworth (1878-1969), and Philip Henry Barkdull (1888-1968); as well as such other teachers of distinction as John H. Stansfield (1878-1953) of Snow College (whose work was an exceptionally individual statement and career in the rural setting); BYU's talented printmaker and fifteen-year art chair, Elbert H. Eastmond (1876-1936); and that institution's powerful landscape and genre painter, B.F. Larsen (1882-1970), also chair at BYU from Eastmond's death to 1953; and Utah State University's open-minded and progressive modernist, Calvin Fletcher (1882-1963), art department chair in Logan from 1907 to 1947.

Some painters from Utah eventually became well known both within the state and elsewhere. For example, the cartoonist, painter, and sculptor John Held, Jr. (1889-1958); art director, illustrator, and painter Hal Burrows (1890-1965); and the wonderful urban realist painter, printmaker, and illustrator Waldo Midgley (1888-1986), all left the area early to seek artistic training and professional success in New York City and elsewhere. (Their training was with the vigorous and charming "ash can" realist Robert Henri, after some important Salt Lake City study and good conversation with a visiting Mahonri "Hon" Young.) All of them achieved national recognition and each would later return "home" to Utah occasionally to draw and paint in the wide open spaces. The famed western landscape and figure painter Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) made Mt. Carmel, Utah, one of his home bases in later years to do the same.

Another fluid realist, and one of Utah's most beloved painter-teachers, Joseph A.F. Everett (1883-1945), remained in Salt Lake City after studying in England, Paris, and New York. The rather painterly stylist Minerva Teichert (1889-1976) returned home to treat numerous Mormon themes after study in New York with Henri. In contrast, the equally creative Francis L. Horspool (1871-1951) didn't really study with anybody. Indeed, by the time of Horspool's death at the age of eighty, he was undoubtedly Utah's most distinctive and productive primitive or "folk" artist.

An appreciation for the work of an artist like Horspool values the nontraditional. Certainly, this was the case with many of Utah's early women artists. There was, for one, everybody's mentor, the irrepressible Alice Merrill Horne (1868-1948), state legislator and founder of the Utah Art Institute (known today known as the Utah Arts Council), social activist, gallery operator, friend, advisor, and painter. Also, a list of other women artists of note includes teacher, painter, and decorator Florence Ware (1891-1971); Ruth Wolfe Smith (1912-1980), a marvelously lyrical surrealist painter as well as a decorator; Ruth Harwood (1896-1958), poet and symbolist; the highly skilled and imaginative Florence Truelson (1901-1959); and Irene Thompson Fletcher (1900-1969), one of our state's most effective semi-abstract modern stylists.

The road of art was difficult for the women, of course. It still is. But during the period following the market "crash" of 1929, times were unquestionably tough for everybody--although there were some financial benefits available to artists during the 1930s as a result of federal art projects successively administered by fellow artists Judy Lund (1911-), Elzy J. "Bill" Bird (1911-), and Lynn Fausett (1894-1977).

Among the younger artists involved in such programs were the "American Scene" painter Carlos Anderson (1904-1978), and the artist-entrepreneur Ranch Kimball (1894-1980); William J. Parkinson (1899-), a fascinating Utah surrealist; S. Paul Smith (1904-), a dapper and vibrant realist; and the powerful northern Utah expressionist landscapist Howell Rosenbaum (1908-1982); figurative expressionist Henry Rasmusen (1909-1970); J. Roman Andrus (1907-), BYU's emphatic abstractionist emeritus; painter then photographer H. Reuben "Harry" Reynolds (1898-1974) of USU; George Smith Dibble (1904-1992), the delightful and painterly cubist-expressionist watercolor specialist; and finally, Everett Thorpe (1904-1984), an impressive talent who became one of Utah's most powerful abstract expressionists in late career.

In contrast, Theodore M. "Ted" Wassmer (1910-) and Milford Zornes (1908-) have maintained rather consistent styles throughout their long careers; Francis H. Zimbeaux (1913-) has remained dedicatedly allegorical in his quiet way; and, in his courageous works, Don Olsen (1910-1983) moved very convincingly from an earlier form of brutal and painterly symbolic expressionism to an absolutely mindclearing and joyful precision geometry in his later years. On the other hand, dedicated realist painters Gaell Lindstrom (1919-), Farrell Collett (1907-), and Alvin Gittins (1922-1981), of Utah State, Weber State, and the University of Utah respectively, all seldom swerved from career-long commitments to specific and totally developed ways of seeing and painting. Indeed, the same is essentially true of the incredibly rich romantic, abstractions-turned-landscapes of V. Douglas Snow (1927-), as well as the pure homages to color and geometry of Anna Campbell Bliss (1925-).

In fact, the sense of a strong and definite individual stamp is the rule for many major Utah artists today. For example, although Lee Deffebach's (1928-) thoughtful experimentation has continued, when viewing a representative Utah show, one seldom mistakes the finely felt color-field fusions of paint and canvas of this artist for the work of anyone else. In Ed Maryon's (1931-) creations the viewer also will find a distinctive taste and control. Neither, for that matter, is there any confusion whatsoever about the highly recognizable and always fascinating images of trompe l'oeil artists Frank Anthony Smith (1939-) and Sam Wilson (1943-), or the figurative enigmas of Paul Davis (1946-)--all of whom have been associated with the University of Utah's art faculty in recent years.

Realism has taken many forms in the context of more recent artistic development in Utah. In the realm of sculpture, for example, a somewhat younger group than Mahonri Young also became known outside the state as essentially traditional practitioners; they included Torlief Knaphus (1881-1965), Avard T. Fairbanks (1897-1987) and Millard Malin (1891-1974). They were then followed by two groups: stylizing realists led by Angelo Caravaglia (1925-), Franz M Johansen (1928-), and Larry Elsner (1930-1990); and various western and wildlife sculptors such as U.S. Grant Speed (1930-), Clark Bronson (1939-), and Edward J. Fraughton (1939-). Many fine realist sculptors have followed, often favoring themes of particular importance to the western audience. They include Dallas Anderson (1931-), Dennis Smith (1942-), John Mortensen (1949-), Dee Jay Bawden (1951-), Jonathon Bronson (1952-), and Korry R. Bird (1961-).

A very similar claim, though related to a somewhat more diverse stylistic context, can be made regarding the following realist painters and printmakers of this general period: illustrator-painters Arnold Friberg (1914-), Glen Edwards (1935-) and Barbara Edwards (1952-); academic realists Trevor Southey (1940-), Randall Lake (1947-), Dan Baxter (1948-1986), and Shauna Cook Clinger (1954-); photo-realistic painters Richard Van Wagoner (1932-), Anton ("Tony") Rasmussem (1942-), and Robert Marshall (1944-); highly effective western artists Bill L. Hill (1922-), Michael Coleman (1946-), and John Jarvis (1946-); tonalists and impressionists Connie Borup (1945-), Richard Murray (1948-), and Kent R. Wallis (1945-); Ken Baxter (1944-), Al Rounds (1951-), Earl Jones (1937-), painters of wonderful urban and rural scenes, among so many others.

Indeed, Utah is a landscape painting place, and has been so since pioneer times. John Tullidge (1837-1899), Reuben Kirkham (1845-1886), Harry Squires (1850-1928), Lorus Pratt (1855-1923), John B. Fairbanks (1855-1940), G. Wesley Browning (1868-1951), Paul Fjellboe (1873-1948), O.D. Campbell (1876-1933), J. Leo Fairbanks (1878-1946), Cornelius (1882-1970) and Rosine Howard Salisbury (1887-1975), Lawrence Squires (1887-1928), Roger Bailey (1897-1985), Ella Peacock (1905-), Mary Kimball Johnson (1906-), Dorothy Watkins (1911-), Norma Forsberg (1920-), Frank Magleby (1928-), Nancy Lund (1931-), Harry Sellers (1937-), Valoy Eaton (1938-), Spike Ress (1948-), Ian M. Ramsay (1948-), and George Handrahan (1949-), Frank Huff (1958-), and more--all have loved aspects of Utah and provided painted "windows" to share what they love.

Yet this place and society have also produced the surrealist, fantasy, and symbolist artists Don Doxey (1928-), Harold D. Peterson (1930-), and Edith Roberson (1929-); and the marvelously idiosyncratic printmakers Robert W. Kleinschmidt (1927-), Moishe Smith (1929-1993), Marion Hyde (1938-), Wayne Kimball (1943-) and Royden Card (1952-). Others who should be mentioned include the mysterious Everett Ruess (1914-1934?) as well as J.S. Wixom (1941-), Jeanne L. Clarke (1924-), James C. Christensen (1942-), Bruce H. Smith (1936-) and Lee Udall Bennion (1956-), artists who feature allegorical, symbolic, fantasy, metaphorical, and autobiographical figures in the most imaginative ways.

Other artists have interestingly and skillfully varied their styles according to situation and audience, as in the case of the multitalented Howard Kearns (1907-1947); Lynn Fausett's well-known younger brother Dean Fausett (1913-); Utah State University's Harrison Groutage (1925-); gallery owner/painter Dennis Phillips (1938-); Southern Utah/Weber State teacher and artist Tom Leek (1932-); and the very successful Alpine, Utah, artists, painter Gary E. Smith (1942-) and sculptor-painter Dennis Smith. Though he is responsible for many fine examples of realist bronze sculpture, Dennis Smith also is the painter of delightful, "child-like" figurative abstractions on canvas, as well as the creator of fancifully sculpted assemblage pieces that are also wonderfully reminiscent of childhood flights of the imagination. These works are connected, in a whimsical way, to the taciturn, minimal, and purely abstract designs of other Utah sculptors including Franks Riggs (1922-), Frank Nakos (1939-), Richard Johnston (1942-), Michael Hullet (1953-), and Amie Laird McNeel (1964-). Smith's paintings bring to mind the highly sophisticated metaphysical and metaphorical "primitivisms" of painters Bonnie Sucec (1942-), Susan Carroll (1943-), Meredith Moench (1945-), and Edwin Oberbeck (1951-).

There are today also many others of course who use a multitude of traditional and nontraditional means and materials, often mixed together to make statements the viewer can only search for meanings both personal and universal. There are abstract sculptors Ursula Brodauf-Craig (1926-) and Raymond Jonas (1942-); also the very effective public artist and arts activist Stephen A. Goldsmith (1954-); geometric abstractionists Bonnie G. Phillips (1942-), a painter on silk, and the fiber artist, Sharon Alderman (1941-); Nel Ivancich (1941-), Kaye Terry (1944-), John Wood (1945-), John Belingheri (1949-), Mark B. Petersen (1953-), abstractionist painters of great depth and individual strength; the tantalizingly complex, layered simplicities on canvas of David Dornan (1954-), and John Owen Erickson's (1953-) expressionist power; the strong individual modernism of Doyle M. Strong (1917-1985) and Alex Darais (1918-); as well as the profound symbolist creations of Wulf Barsch (1943-), Carleen Jimenez (1941-), and Maureen O'Hara Ure (1949-). These and other artists of recent years have brought Utah very much into the national creative mix.

See: Alice Merrill Horne, Devotees and Their Shrines, A Hand Book of Utah Art (1914); James L. Haseltine, 100 Years of Utah Painting (1965); Kaysville Art Club, Pioneers of Utah Art (1968); Robert S. Olpin, Dictionary of Utah Art (1980); Vern G. Swanson, Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit, Utah Art (1991).