Pioneer artists enriched mountain Zion

Zion in the 19th Century contained a rich concentration of artistic talent, prompting early LDS artist C.C.A. Christensen to write, "I never would have believed so much talent could be found among us as a people who are nearly all gathered from among the most downtrodden classes of mankind."

A sample of their work is the basis of a new exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art, which opened Sept. 30 and continues through Feb. 21, 1994."The exhibit identifies the roles of 10 Utah pioneer artists and how they enriched and influenced the communities in which they lived," said senior art curator Robert Davis.

For the show, the museum draws on the Church's own extensive collection supplemented by pieces on loan from other museums, institutions and private collectors. Brother Davis said the artwork is displayed in a setting that suggests a gallery-like room in the late 19th Century.

He explained that most of the early LDS artists received training in their native lands and then joined the Church and immigrated to Utah before the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

Many of them painted murals for temple interiors, a task they saw as "of great honor and utmost responsibility," he said. "Like the immensely difficult process of building the temple, creating murals involved total commitment and concentration."

He noted that the artists supplemented their income by illustrating books and magazines and making prints for framing. Other sideline work included doing scenery for the Salt Lake Theater and handgraining furniture.

The new exhibit is divided into sections with explanatory labels and art groupings that illustrate some of the major contributions of the pioneer artists to the Church and their communities. The sections are "In Service to the Church," "Depicting Latter-day Saint History," and "Artwork for the Mormon Community."

Featured are the works of William Warner Major, who painted murals of Joseph Smith addressing the Nauvoo Legion and of the martyrdom; William W. Ward Jr., draftsman for the Salt Lake Temple design under the direction of architect Truman O. Angell; Frederick Piercy, who completed several portraits of Church leaders, including 15 engravings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve; Jacob Johannes Martinus (John) Bohn, who contributed paintings to several temples and tabernacles; C.C.A. Christensen, who through his art recorded events in Church history; Martin Lenzi, who helped produce ordinance room murals in the Manti Temple; John Tullidge, who helped paint murals in the Logan Temple; George Martin Ottinger, whose art recorded Mormon immigrants' trek across the plains in 1861; and Danquart Anton Weggeland, who painted murals in the Manti, St. George, Logan and Salt Lake Temples.

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