The Mystery of Moser’s “Pink Mountain”

 In MOA Features
John Henri Moser, Pink Mountain

John Henri Moser (1876-1951), “Pink Mountain,” no date, oil on canvas on board. Courtesy of the Sharron Brim Collection.

John Henri Moser was known for his love of nature, as well as for an enthusiasm for his own work. Those who knew him well attest that he often said his most recent painting was his best. Strangely, this seems not to have been the case with one painting in particular.

The artist’s granddaughter, Sharron Brim (from which many of the pieces in the exhibition are borrowed from her personal collection), rescued this from the trash while cleaning out Moser’s studio. Finding an old canvas wadded up in a ball, she was shocked to see such a beautiful composition tossed aside. Luckily, Brim carefully preserved the canvas and it now occupies a place of honor in her personal collection. She has generously loaned Pink Mountain to the MOA for the current exhibition, John Henri Moser: Painting Utah Modern.

Unlike many of Moser’s works, this painting is not depicting a specific landscape or scene. Instead, it is either a scene that Moser imagined or a landscape that he didn’t specify, perhaps because he was, for some reason, unhappy with this work.

What is so striking about this piece is the stunning pink mountain in the background set behind the bright golden aspens in the foreground. The body of water in the foreground also reflects the vibrancy of the mountain. The colors in this scene are indicative of Moser’s painting style that he developed after returning to Utah after studying in Paris. Moser recognized his true artistic potential by using the influences of Parisian Modernism to express his awe at nature’s beauty. For Moser, color was the only artistic language fit to communicate his profound gratitude and love for life.

See the entire exhibition of John Henri Moser: Painting Utah Modern online at the virtual exhibition, or in person at the BYU Museum of Art through October 10, 2020.

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