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  • Artist Profile Image - Bird, E. J.

Bird, E. J.

Elzy J. Bird was born on the third of April 1911 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Bird was a painter, printmaker, designer, cartoonist, arts administrator, and an architectural draftsman. He passed away in May, 2001.

Bird studied art at the University of Utah and at the Chouinard Institute in California. While in California Bird also worked for Walt Disney Studios. In 1933 he returned to Salt Lake City where he taught art and sold his paintings. He also worked as a WPA artist.

In addition to his paintings Bird wrote and illustrated five children's books. His work was exhibited in New York City during the 1939 World's Fair. Many of his works remain part of the permanent collection at the Springville Museum of Art. His family has set up an art scholarship in his name at the University of Utah.

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah and material supplied by the artist's family.

Scholarship Information

E.J. Bird was born to Joseph Montgomery and Fanny Beutler Bird on 3 April 1911 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Interested in art at an early age, Bird studied with artists Bessie Alice Bancroft, Cornelius Salisbury, James Taylor Harwood, and Jack S. Sears. Bird's career portfolio includes works in oil, watercolor, etching, pastel, charcoal, pen and ink, and colored pencil. As Director of the Utah Federal Art Project (1937-1942), E.J. Bird played an integral role in the establishment of the Utah State Art Center in Salt Lake City and the branch centers in Provo, Helper, and Price.

He was also a member of the Board of Director's of the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts during the 1930s. Bird remained the Director of the Utah Art Project until December 1942, when he was drafted into service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His battalion was involved in the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. After his military service ended, Bird returned to Salt Lake City where he worked for various architectural firms for the next thirty-one years. He maintained his association with the art community as a member of the Board of Directors of the Art Barn during the 1950s.

Since his retirement, Bird has authored and illustrated a number of children's books including Ten Tall Tales (1984), Chuck Wagon Stew (1988), The Blizzard of 1896 (1990), How Do Bears Sleep? (1990), and The Rainmakers (1993).

Over the years, E.J. Bird has held one-man exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum, the University of Utah, and the Intermountain Art Company. His works have been represented in exhibition at the New York World's Fair in 1939, "Artists West of the Mississippi" in Colorado Springs, and in most Utah art shows prior to World War II. Examples of Bird's works can be found in a number of collections including the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts, Utah State Fair, The Springville Museum of Art, and in many Utah schools, public buildings, and private collections. His contributions to Utah art, both as an artist and as Director of the Utah Federal Art Project, have significantly influenced the cultural and artistic development of the state.

Biography courtesy of Springville Museum of Art.

Newspapers

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, September 2, 1939.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, August 26, 1939.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, July 22, 1939.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, February 25, 1939.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, December 24, 1938.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, November 12, 1938.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, October 3, 1936.

“At the Galleries.” The Deseret News, May 23, 1936.

“Colorful Works that Reflect Hope.” The Deseret News, September, 25 1988.

Books

Barker, Marilyn Conover, and Scott Peterson. The Legacy of Mormon Furniture: The Mormon Material Culture, Undergirded by Faith, Commitment, and Craftsmanship. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995.

Bird, E. J. Ten Tall Tales. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 1984.

Bird, E. J. Chuck Wagon Stew. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 1988.

Bird, E. J. The Blizzard of 1896. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 1990.

Bird, E. J. How do Bears Sleep? Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 1990.

Bird, E. J. The Rainmakers. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 1993.

Bird, E. J. The World War II Journals of E. J. Bird. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2001.

Burke, Dan E. Utah Art of the Depression: An Exhibition Curated from the Utah State Fine Art Collection : Essay and Catalog. Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Arts Council, 1986.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999. Publisher, 1999.

 Last Modified 8/28/13