“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), The Death and Life of Great American Cities
From bustling modern cities to crumbling ruins, we are deeply impacted by the manmade environments around us. Clara Read’s painting of Eagle Gate, shows us an earlier version of Salt Lake City, with dirt roads and wide-open spaces of the 1870s. Ella Peacock’s view of Thistle, Utah chronicles the rebuilding of roads after a major landslide in 1983. Mabel Frazer and Marie Hull’s paintings introduce the charm of rural European villages. Whether you grew up near factories, in busy cities, or in the quiet countryside, this section depicts those environments through the artists who lived or worked in them.
Marie A. Hull (1890-1980), Old Granadad, 1929, oil on board, 24 x 17 15/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Bent Franklin Larsen.
Travel was essential to Marie Hull’s development as an artist. Based in Mississippi, she had an unquenchable desire to see the great art of our nation and also in Europe. In 1929, with the second-place prize money she won from a painting competition, Hull traveled across Europe on an eight-month study abroad. During this time, she produced over 600 paintings that reflected what she saw while abroad, including this painting. During the Great Depression, Hull attended every exhibition she could afford, often traveling by train through the night to avoid the cost of a hotel.
With simplified shapes and cheerful colors, Hull captured this idyllic European hillside village. The close cluster of homes implies an equally tight-knit community, with a church presiding over the town at the top of the hill. The pastels of the buildings and the landscape create a unified, tranquil scene.
Ella Peacock (1905-1999), Building the Road Through Thistle, c.1984, oil on canvas, 15 13/16 x 20 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1987.
In April of 1983, a massive landslide flooded and destroyed most of this small town. Established in 1883, the modest farming community of Thistle flourished for a time as a stop along the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Today, it is a ghost town with only a few structures remaining. Peacock painted this work shortly after the landslide, documenting part of the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts to clear up the surrounding roads.
The figures in this oil painting are turned away, hard at work. Measuring, marking, and shoveling, they are fully concentrated on their labors, seemingly unaware of an artist nearby observing their work. Pops of red and orange animate the work and diagonally lead your eye through the painting. Characteristically, Peacock is as interested in the mountainous outdoor environment as she is the figures who inhabit it.
Mabel Pearl Frazer (1887-1982), Italian Village, 1930, oil on canvas, 31 1/4 x 37 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1981.
A visit to Italy inspired this loosely painted countryside view. During the summers, while on break from teaching art at the University of Utah, Frazer often traveled around the world searching for new inspiration. From a hillside vantage point and with a subdued color palette, Frazer depicts a small grouping of houses situated on a sloping landscape and surrounded by dense greenery. With distant hills in the background and a clutter of harmonious houses, it is an idyllic scene of a rural Italian village.
Born in the small Utah town of Beaver, Mabel Frazer attended a branch of Brigham Young Academy during her high school years and graduated with honors. Fiercely independent and determined, Frazer pursued art at the University of Utah and later studied in New York City at the Art Students League and the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. After returning to Utah, she began teaching art at the University of Utah and remained there for over 30 years.
Mabel Pearl Frazer (1887-1982), The Factory Village, c.1930, watercolor, 10 7/16 x 14 5/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1981.
In varied reds and browns, Mabel Frazer captures the heated energy of a factory town. Although no people are visible, the village is alive with the bustle of production. Plumes of smoke emerge from several smokestacks and buildings, the obvious sign of industrial activity. Additionally, the tracks through the town imply the action of trains and automobiles that are necessary to move both workers and products.
While visiting New York City, Frazer was spotted making a copy of a Rembrandt painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the president of the University of Utah. He saw her work and invited Frazer to join the faculty of the university. Frazer accepted and went on to teach for over three decades. Frazer was extremely versatile and was instrumental in expanding the disciplines taught in the art department. She taught a wide variety of subjects including art history, textile design, sculpture, ceramics, serigraphy, design, painting, landscape painting, and human anatomy.
Mary Jensen (1885-1947), Ruins at Nauvoo, Illinois, 1935, watercolor, 11 x 14 1/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1937.
With quick, loose brushstrokes, Mary Jensen depicts the shell of a crumbling Nauvoo home, almost one hundred years after it was abandoned. Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints swiftly left Nauvoo in 1844, following the death of the prophet Joseph Smith and growing conflict with the surrounding community. The delayed aftermath of that departure is seen in this home; though still standing, it shows signs of neglect. Through the left window, green growth indicates that nature has taken over parts of the home. The surrounding foliage encroaches on the abandoned building as if seeking to reclaim the land that Saints had once tried to tame into their land of promise. The building itself is painted with a light wash of color that contrasts with the dark green of the trees and the red of the remaining bricks. The washed-out building appears almost as a ghost from the past.
Ann Medalie (1896-1991), Oil Tanks, c.1938, lithograph, 12 1/8 x 16 1/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Precisionist style of art developed in America. Precisionism took industrialization and modernization as its main theme; artists turned to skyscrapers, factories, and modern machinery for their subject matter. Frequently employing precise lines and clear geometric shapes, they applauded the elegant industry of modern America.
A Jewish immigrant from Latvia, Ann Medalie adopted these ideas in her black and white lithograph. The oil tanks loom large—massive vertical and horizontal structures that now merit artistic attention. In the background, telephone poles and buildings place this scene in an unspecified American town that has embraced modern technology and industry.
Margaret Sarah Lewis (1907-1979), Cityscape, 1940, lithograph, 13 1/16 x 20 3/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of George Smith Dibble Estate, 1994.
In the 1930s, many artists turned to cities, skyscrapers, factories, and urban topics for their subject matter. Frequently employing precise lines and clear geometric shapes, they applauded the modern feel and elegant industry of modern America. In Lewis’ evening scene, many cars zip along the highway, while electric lights illuminate the road and light up homes and business places along the hillside. Our elevated perspective, slightly above but still part of the city, probably comes from a high-rise apartment building, like the two that flank the composition.
Lewis’ hometown of York, Pennsylvania was a constant inspiration for her art; many of her works depict local buildings and landscapes. Lewis graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1929 and later earned her B.S and M.A degrees from the Columbia University Teachers College. Over the course of her artistic career, she designed greeting cards, posters, and stage sets as well as wall murals for homes and businesses.
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), St. George Outlook, 1953, Gelatin silver print, 10 1/2 x 13 1/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of John and Lolita Dixon. Copyright Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of Art, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor, 2007.
With most of the buildings and homes obscured, the white St. George temple rises above the trees as the defining landmark of the Southern Utah city. Behind the temple stand the layers of desert mountains that distinguish the landscape where the city’s residents have made their home. Dorothea Lange traveled to Southern Utah to photograph the rural towns growing out of the sometimes harsh desert setting. The masses of trees and the houses next to them mark out the boundaries of the city limits and are reminders of the changes that St. George’s inhabitants made upon the landscape to change an inhospitable landscape into a home.
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), Old Beatty House, Toquerville, Utah, 1953, Gelatin silver print, 10 5/16 x 12 15/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of John and Lolita Dixon. Copyright Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of Art, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor, 2007.
The Life Magazine essay that accompanied Lange’s photographs of Southern Utah presented the town of Toquerville as old, quiet, and dying as the younger generation left for bigger cities. Many of Lange’s photographs feature older members of the community and buildings that are falling apart or in disarray. When the essay was published, some Toquerville residents took issue with this portrayal of their hometown. Here, the old, historic home in an overgrown yard stands in front of the barren desert hills. The peeling screen door and broken windows evoke a feeling of abandonment, reflecting a town in decline that Lange experienced as she explored Toquerville.
Louise B. Hansen (1927-2014), Abandoned, 1965, watercolor, 22 x 30 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.
The disorder of the abandoned structure is framed by the stability of the bright blue found in both the sky and water. The leafless branches provide a perfect parallel to the man-made building, both suggesting emptiness and abandonment. With the absence of human intervention, the water, wind, and rain are reclaiming what was once theirs. The natural world continues, unfazed by trends and changes in human needs.
Louise Brimhall Hansen received her BS in music and an MFA from BYU. She taught art and music in the public school systems of Idaho, Utah, and Indiana, as well as at Indiana State University.
Louise B. Hansen (1927-2014), Provo Beet Slicer, no date, watercolor, 22 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.
Although Provo Beet Slicer’s blocky abstraction is a stylistic departure from Hansen’s more realistic style, several of her other works show an interest in industrial scenes around Provo and in the surrounding area. The rigid lines that extend past the outline of the factory building emphasize the geometry of the building and the rust-color palette is reminiscent of factories, industry, and perhaps also of age. Despite its unfinished feel, Hansen signed the work, embracing the loose and abstract quality. On the verso, she painted an unrelated scene of a local farmhouse.
Primarily working in watercolor, Hansen was a signature member of the American Watercolor Society, and a Cardinal Fellow of the Watercolor Society of Indiana. She received many awards for her works and exhibited across the United States and in Germany.
Jessie Bone Charman (1895-1986), Old Cement Works, c.1950, watercolor, 22 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1950.
The proud cluster of buildings at the top of the hill must have once been a bustling hive of activity. Though still standing, now they now look derelict and crumbling, an elegy to an earlier day. The reds and yellows of nature yet thrive, perhaps underscoring the power of nature to prevail and continue, despite the rapid changes in industry and economies of towns and cities.
Jessie Bone Charman spent her summers traveling the American West, Europe, and the Carribean with her husband while he was on break from teaching at Syracuse University. Focusing on watercolors, Charman recorded the landscapes she visited with great sensitivity to light and nature.
Leah Tippetts Smith (b.1947), Lehi Roller Mill, c.1970, watercolor, 21 1/4 x 28 1/2 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1971.
Utah artist Leah Tippetts Smith paints this familiar Lehi landmark in loose watercolor, with dark hovering clouds suggesting an approaching storm. The subdued color palette of grays and browns unifies the work and draws the eye towards the cherry red truck cab in the foreground. Lehi Roller Mill, which is still in use today, is a landmark of the area that is often captured by artists and is also remembered as a filming location for the 1984
Smith studied at Brigham Young University and then taught art at Jordan High School in Sandy for 47 years. In 1999, she won the Outstanding High School Art Educator of the Year, a BYU David O. McKay School of Education Award.
Clara Elizabeth Quilley Read (1839-1910), The Eagle Gate, c.1970, oil on canvas, 18 x 36 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of the Samuel Read Arnold Family, 1983.
As a teenager, Clara Elizabeth Quilley Read sailed from England to Australia to live with an uncle. At the same time, the rest of her family sailed to the United States on the ship Horizon and joined the Martin Handcart Company crossing the plains to Salt Lake City. Clara eventually immigrated to the United States and settled in Salt Lake City in the 1870s, over fifteen years after the rest of her family.
Read captured Eagle Gate monument, initially erected in 1859, roughly ten years after it had been built to beautify the downtown area and to signal the entrance to Brigham Young’s property. With an unpaved road and few buildings, this nineteenth-century view of the downtown Salt Lake area shows how much has changed in the past 150 years.
Helen Smith (1871-1954), Newport Harbor, California, c.1930, oil on board, 20 1/4 x 24 1/4 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of A. Merlin Steed and Alice Steed Collection, 1955
A talented watercolorist and oil painter, Helen Smith captures the atmosphere of an overcast afternoon along the California coastline. Smith lived and worked on Balboa Island, just minutes from Newport Harbor, and she was frequently drawn to the water and coastal life for her subject matter. The influence of Impressionism is apparent in her use of quick brushstrokes and attention to color and reflections, especially on the water. The harbor is neither bustling nor still, with dock hands and sailors going about their tasks without glory or bravado.
Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989), Jardin de Luxembourg I, 1977, lithograph, 30 1/8 x 22 3/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1978.
An American artist, critic, writer, and teacher, Elaine de Kooning was instrumental in the spread of Abstract Expressionism in the middle of the 20th century. She was an active part of “The Club”—a group of avant-garde artists that met in Greenwich Village to discuss and debate art. As a member of the group, de Kooning presented a unique perspective within a movement that promoted masculinity and often marginalized women. She worked in representational and abstract styles, often blurring the lines between realism and non-objectivity.
During the 1970s, Elaine de Kooning became fascinated with a statue depicting the Roman god Bacchus located in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. For several years, she created multiple paintings and prints on this subject, including the present image. The artist reduced the cone-shaped mass of figures, who support an overweight Bacchus riding a donkey, to mere silhouette fragments. The sculptural forms are entirely surrounded by splashes of foliage, recalling both the lush garden setting and Bacchus’ secondary role as god of fertility.
Deborah Remington (1930-2010), Davos, 1975, lithograph, 30 x 21 15/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1978.
Known for her unique form of abstraction and illusion, Deborah Remington often combined bold colors with complex machinelike forms. Frequently, her art has a dark background upon which geometric forms float in a way that seems theatrical and otherworldly. Davos is a complex fourteen-color lithograph, with a ground color that subtly shifts from deep olive green to a dark Prussian blue. Davos is a mountain resort town in Switzerland that has hosted the World Economic Forum since 1971. Dedicated to resolving world conflicts and economic issues, Davos brings together world leaders to bridge the gaps of difference, perhaps not unlike the two vertical pillars coming together here.
A descendant of the Western artist Frederic Remington, Remington trained at the San Francisco Art Institute under prominent Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still. She worked repeatedly at the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a world-renowned workshop for studying printmaking techniques, from 1973-78, during which time she completed the lithograph Davos.
Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), Two Stags on Alert, 1885, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 1/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Lynn Dowden, 1976.
Two stags stand at attention, looking in different directions as if waiting or listening for a potential intruder. The stag in the foreground showcases Bonheur’s knowledge of animal anatomy as light gleams off horns and ears, and highlights muscles and fur. This painting came into the museum collection in the 1970s. It was conserved for this exhibition, and Bonheur’s estate seal was found on the reverse of the painting.
As one of the most successful female artists of the nineteenth century, Rosa Bonheur rejected gender norms and quickly established her reputation as a talented animal painter. She regularly frequented animal markets, farms, and slaughterhouses to study animals and their anatomy. While she worked, Bonheur wore pants, an act which required a special permit from the Paris police. The first woman to be awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest accolade bestowed by the French government, Bonheur opened the realm of possibility for later generations of women who viewed her as a model of accomplishment, worthy of emulation.