Early Career

This page lets you go deeper into the exhibition by presenting the artworks with thoughtful questions, additional historical and art historical information, and interesting comparisons.

All supplementary material for the “Early Career” section of John Henri Moser: Painting Utah Modern is on this page. Scroll to find the image and content you’re looking for.

Moser, French Landscape Near Paris

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), French Landscape Near Paris, 1909, oil on canvas. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

John Henry Moser, Untitled, USU

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), Untitled, 1908, oil on board. Gift of Lyman Jensen. Collection of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University.

Countryside Paris

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), Countryside, Paris, 1910, oil on canvas on board. Sharron Brim Collection.

Like hosts of fellow-American art students, Moser studied at Parisian Academies. Unlike many unattached young men, however, Moser was 32 years old when he left his wife, Aldine, and their two young boys at home (one of whom was only 8 months old!). Aldine made a living by sewing, cooking for workers, raising and selling vegetables, and even renting out a room in their small house. Henri wrote to her almost weekly. He describes his dire living conditions in Paris, observing that Utahns were rich compared to most people living in Paris. He rented a small room, only 10 x 12 feet, with a bed, table and chair. His cost for room and board was 60 cents (around $15.00 today), which he considered high and thus decided to cook his own meals. However, because he kept painting while cooking, Moser frequently burned his meager meals.

In Paris, Moser attended one Academy during the day, and another one at night. Daily academy routine consisted of drawing models for 8 hours, but Henri often had to get out due to overcrowding and the sheer stench. He would also copy at the Louvre, paint at home or en plein air, or simply enjoy walks in the outskirts of Paris. All of his effort started to pay off. Moser saw some success, including the opportunity to exhibit at the Grand Palais of Fine Arts.

View these three paintings above, completed while Moser was studying in Paris.

 

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John Henri Moser, After the Storm

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), After the Storm, 1913, oil on canvas. Utah Division of Arts and Museums Fine Arts Collection.

Shortly before leaving Paris for Utah, Moser expressed his conflicted state about leaving France in a letter to his wife:

“Ah, you may know that it is hard for Mr. Moser to depart from this land of dreams where the park tree grows in its more majestic beauty and the wild flowers scent the air with that refreshing odor. But I must come home where loved ones are waiting, where lofty mountains bedecked with purple robes are waiting for me.”

What do you see in the painting After the Storm (above) that Moser alluded to in this letter?

Purple mountains appear again and again in Moser’s landscapes, so keep an eye out as you explore the rest of the gallery.

 

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John Henri Moser, Pioneer Wagon Train

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), Pioneer Wagon Train, 1917, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Church History Museum.

John Henri Moser, "Pioneers Entering the Salt Lake Valley"

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), Pioneers Entering the Salt Lake Valley, 1935, oil on masonite. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

Compare and contrast the two paintings of pioneer trains, shown here. Moser painted this subject twice, eighteen years apart. Consider the following:

Why might Moser have painted two paintings of the same subject, even after 18 years?

What similarities and differences can you observe between these two versions of the same subject?

What is the thematic emphasis of each individual image?

When you tell a story you’ve told before, how might it differ the second or third time around?

During the 1890s, Utah artists John Hafen, Lorus Pratt, J.B. Fairbanks, Edwin Evans, and Herman Haag were called by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become the first Utah artists to study art at Fine Arts Academies in Paris, France. Although he was not officially set apart, Moser viewed his time in Paris as a divine calling and mission, much like that of the original LDS art missionaries. Moser felt an urgent need to enhance and uplift Utah’s cultural landscapes with his art, as he expressed in numerous letters to his wife Aldine.

“I shall return to Zion to beautify this Church, to work out my salvation in presenting works unto God’s people.”

“Our young state is in need of culture in all lines of affaires, especially do I see it when living in this advanced city.”

“When returning, I hope to spend my time and talent in God’s service. All I ask is an ordinary living for my family and I shall be content…. To Him, I owe all.”

“My intention is to serve God and beautify His holy cause of bringing to light some of the beautiful nature that He has given us, not just for the money but for the joy that I receive while in this life.”

 

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