"That he who runs, may read."
During her lifetime, LDS artist Minerva Teichert internalized this phrase, popular among muralists in the early 1900s. It motivated her to create art for the common man - art that could tell a story or convey a message for people who were too busy to read printed words.For Minerva Teichert, art was also a means of telling people about her faith in Christ and His Church. She is well known for her paintings detailing the epic Mormon pioneer journey west.
But she also created a series of 43 murals, telling stories from the Book of Mormon.
The murals, and preliminary oil sketches for them, are currently on display in a free exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art titled: "That He Who Runs, May Read: Minerva Teichert's Book of Mormon Paintings." The exhibit opened Dec. 4 and will remain open through May 16.
Much of the art - depicting scenes such as King Benjamin's farewell address and the trial of Abinadi - comes from the museum's substantial collection of Teichert art; others are oil sketches owned by family members and collectors.
"She was driven to create these great Mormon stories," said Dawn Pheysey, curator of the exhibit. "She did her work with a great deal of conviction, as well as with a great deal of talent."
Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert (1888-1976) started painting as a young girl. "She had an incredible ability to paint and draw animals," Sister Pheysey said. "When you examine her sheep, horses and other animals, it was clear she knew how to draw them from any perspective and direction."
As she grew, she received art training from some of the best artists and art schools of the time.
At the Art Institute of Chicago she learned how to draw from John Vanderpool, a great American draftsman.
Her style also evolved as she studied at the Art Students League in New York, from 1915 to 1916, with renowned painter Robert Henri .
From this mentor, she received her "calling" to draw much of her artistic subject matter from her religion.
On one occasion he asked her: "Has anyone ever told your great Mormon Story?"
Her answer, "Not to suit me," prompted him to say, "Good heavens, girl, what a chance. You do it. You're the one."
From that moment, she felt as though she had been commissioned to paint the LDS story by this great artist, said Sister Pheysey.
Before her death in 1976, Minerva Teichert raised five children in the tiny community of Cokeville, Wyo., worked the fields, nurtured her family, and painted almost every day. She was also the only woman ever commissioned to paint a mural inside a temple - which she did in the Manti Temple on about 4,000 square feet of wall space, said Sister Pheysey.
"Minerva Teichert was a very important LDS artist and she has a very important place in American art history," she noted.
John W. Welch, co-editor of The Book of Mormon Paintings of Minerva Teichert, said there are lots of reasons Church members should view the exhibit. It "is a unique opportunity to see a full panorama of Minerva Teichert paintings at one place and one time," he said. "This is the first time the collection has ever been brought together, and because the collection is so widely dispersed it probably won't be brought together again soon."
Continuing, Brother Welch said walking through "a dramatic visual portrayal of the most evocative scenes in the Book of Mormon" has a huge impact on the viewer. "This array portrays the courage and spirituality of the human beings who stand behind the historical record of the Book of Mormon," he said. "Minerva makes those events come to life in a sensitive and vivid depiction."
Also planned in conjunction with the exhibit, is a Minerva Teichert lecture series on Feb. 5 and 12, March 5 and 12, April 2 and 9, and May 7. While admission is free, tickets are required and available at the museum.
Additionally, a one-woman theatrical performance based on the life and letters of Teichert will be performed in the museum's Cannon galleries, Mondays at 7 and 8 p.m. Groups of 20 or more may schedule the performance Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 5 p.m. For tickets call (801) 378-4322.