Thursday, July 28, 2011

LeConte Stewart Joint Exhibits

The above painting by LeConte Stewart (1891-1990) was my first exposure to the work of this prolific and talented artist. I was a high school student and there was a retrospective show of his work at the  LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City in 1985. I was not as astute at deciphering the language of paint then as I am now (after an additional quarter century of artistic pursuits) but the honesty and passion he displayed for his subject matter resonated with me. I  immediately became a fan.

Utah native LeConte Stewart was born in 1891 in Glenwood, Utah. His Mormon pioneer ancestry ran deep. His grandparents crossed the American plains after joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after meeting Church prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois and settled in Utah. As a boy, Stewart spent countless hours out among the sage drawing and painting. Despite trepidation from his father about becoming an artist, he went to New York where he studied at the Art Student's League as well as landscape painting in the Catskill Mountains at the Leagues branch there.

LeConte's  passion remained in the West and the pull of desert landscape eventually brought him home to Utah. He spent the remainder of his long and productive career painting things that were familiar to him in his rural surroundings. Stewart's  affection for the desert greatly influenced his art. He would often slip a sprig of sagebrush in his pocket, a symbol of his beloved desert, referring to it as his "eau de cologne".

He documented the depression and it's impact on rural life during a five year stretch from 1931-1936. These scenes of abandoned buildings and run down urban and rural scenes are a slice of history and a stark reminder of the hard times Stewart and indeed all of America suffered through during the Depression years.

He was an avid outdoor painter and spent countless hours painting and sketching directly from nature. He was adept in many mediums including pastel, pen and ink, and watercolor, but his passion was oil painting.Stewart taught art at the University of Utah where he served as chairman of the art department for twenty years. His influence as a painter and teacher in the west and Utah in particular continues to be felt.

There are joint exhibits of Stewart's work on display in Salt Lake City and I am excited to view both parts. In a combined effort, The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is hosting LeConte Stewart: Depression Era Art and the LDS Museum of History is showing LeConte Stewart- The Soul of Rural Utah.

A wonderfully thoughtful review of the UMFA show can be found at Artwife Needs A Life

Both Shows are on display through January 15, 2012. The combined exhibits showcase over 200 of Stewart's works. The UMFA show is $7.00 per person and the Church History Museum show is free. Find additional info at the links below.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts
LDS Church History Museum
LeConte Stewart Bio on
Deseret News article
Salt Lake Tribune article
UMFA's resources for Stewart
Film on Stewart including footage of him drawing and painting


Julia Kelly said...

His work is wonderful and so resonate of the back roads of Utah! Thanks for the tour- since I'm not sure I will get up to Salt Lake to see the real thing.

Rob Colvin said...


Greg Newbold said...

I saw the Depression Era Art segment of this exhibit last night at UMFA and it was fabulous! There are several paintings that hang next to the field studies (sometimes more than one. Fascinating stuff- well worth it! FYI 4th Wednesdays of every month are free at UMFA