link to University of Utah Home link to Marriott Library Home
Off Campus Access - Log In

Utah Artists Project Logo

Gerhard E. Untermann

Gerhard Ernest Untermann, Sr. was born November 6th, 1864 in Soldin, Brandenburg Province, Germany near Berlin. Untermann became a United States citizen in 1893. He was a seaman, adventurer, writer, translator, politician, artist, geologist and fossil hunter. As a young man he went to sea and sailed in the days of “Wooden ships and Iron Men“. He sailed from Germany and Europe to Africa, South America and on to North America in wooden clipper ships. Twice he was ship wrecked. He reached land the second time after drifting alone in an open boat for 21 days.

He began painting at sea. Life at sea and short stops in the great ports of the world may seem an unusual way to educate a budding painter, but it was actually a very effective way to teach observant eyes to see colors in the process of atmospheric movement and to appreciate the differences of sky, sea and landscape.

“Ten years of seafaring enabled me to acquire by self-study a more thorough knowledge of zoology, paleontology, paleobotany, comparative anatomy, biology, and geology than the conventional university course can supply,” said Untermann in his autobiographical sketch.

In the late 1880's, Untermann also spent a year alone in the East African jungle, studying first hand the habits and protective coloration of animals. Untermann considered animals not as a group but as individuals, with intelligence, character and with their own personal inner life of emotion and intellect. “Place a man in the environment of the best and see which has the highest I.Q.,' he said.

Untermann, however, did received geology and paleontology training with a laboratory firm in Europe. He also studied privately under William Heine, famed for his panoramic paintings of the battles of Gettysburg and Manila Bay. From Heine, Untermann perfected his ability to paint detail. He also later studied at the Chicago Institute of Art and the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. Untermann's earliest known painting is that of a clipper ship, painted in 1896.

His experiences and studies convinced him that something was lacking in the geologic textbooks.

“How [are] students to realize the life and formations of former eras, having only scientific drawings and flat diagrams to look at? Someone has to paint this kind of picture,” he said.

Ernest Untermann settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but because of his spirit of adventure and love of travel he also lived in Illinois, California, Oregon and Utah. Ernest was not only an artist but a translator and politician. In 1902 he translated from German to English, “Property and the State" by Frederick Engels. In 1905 he published “Science and Revolution“. In 1907 he translated from German to English “Marxian Economics: a Popular Introduction to Three Volumes, including Das Capital" by Karl Marx. All three books were printed by the Charles H. Kerr Company in Chicago. At the Charles H. Kerr Company, Mr. Untermann became acquainted with Upton Sinclair and Jack London, whose works were also published by the same company.

For several years, Ernest was a member of the famed writers and artist colony, at Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. Ernest Untermann, along with Jack London, John Reid and others founded the “Socialist Party of America“. From 1908-1914, Ernest Untermann resided in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California and ran for a U.S. Senate seat in California as a member of the American Socialist Party, but lost the election. Later in life Ernest distanced himself from Socialism when he realized that it had the effect on human nature to destroy incentive and promoted envy and suspicion, especially after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

In 1919, he moved to the Vernal, Utah, while working as a mining engineer for a Chicago company at the Dyer Mine in the Uinta Mountains. He became acquainted with Earl Douglas, discoverer of the dinosaur quarry north of Jensen, Utah, which eventually became “Dinosaur National Monument “.

Moving back to Milwaukee, Ernest Untermann was the Director of the Washington Park Zoo from 1935-1939. Ernest contributed articles to Parks and Recreation magazine and hosted the American Zoology Association Annual Conference in Milwaukee in 1938. While at the zoo Ernest was able to study the anatomy of many different animals first hand. This was very helpful in his later paintings of prehistoric life. During his time as director of the Milwaukee Zoo, Untermann also drew the sketches on the top banner of the monthly zoo newsletters.

Untermann's fascination with the Uintah Basin area brought him back to Vernal in 1940. In 1946, Utah Governor Herbert B. Maw made $200.000 of Department of Publicity and Industrial Development funds available for the construction of the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal, Utah. Ernest Untermann's son, G.E. “Ernie" Untermann with his wife Billie were Rangers and Naturalists at Dinosaur National Monument. Ernie Untermann was appointed director of the new Museum Project to see that the funds were held intact while preliminary plans for the museum were drawn up. Upon completion of the Museum in July 1948, the State of Utah appointed G.E. Untermann, director and Billy Untermann staff scientist. Both also served as curators. They served many years under four different Utah Governors.

Ernest Untermann, Sr. joined the staff as artist, contributing over 100 paintings. Ernest Untermann, Sr. loved the remote rugged country of the Rocky Mountains and the High Uintas and painted many landscapes of the canyons, rock formations, rivers lakes and forests to be found there. “Why, within 50 miles of here [Vernal] you can go from the Archeozoic to the Cenozoic—and every bit of it is paintable.”

Ernest Untermann, Sr. was obsessed with the detailed authenticity of his dinosaur “reconstructions' Sometimes his life-like paintings were produced after first modeling the subject in clay. Untermann produced a large body of dinosaur and prehistoric mammal paintings which can be found at Utah Field House Museum State Park in Vernal, Utah, Dinosaur Monument in Jensen, Utah, The Springville Art Museum in Springville, Utah, and elsewhere. Ernest Untermann had paintings in the inventory of Upton Sinclair, Jack London and The Charles H. Kerr Company. Ernest Untermann died January 5th, 1956, at the age of 91 in Vernal, Utah. His life is best summed up in his own words, “No human faculty compares in value with the ability to search for the truth, to recognize it, love it and make every sacrifice for it.“

Gerhard Ernest Untermann, Sr. was born November 6th, 1864 near Berlin, in Brandenburg, Germany .He was a seaman, adventurer, writer, translator, politician, artist, geologist and fossil hunter. As a young man he went to sea and sailed in the days of “Wooden ships and Iron Men“. He sailed from Germany and Europe to Africa, South America and on to North America in wooden clipper ships. Twice he was ship wrecked. He reached land the second time after drifting alone in an open boat for 21 days.

He began painting at sea. Life at sea and short stops in the great ports of the world may seem an unusual way to educate a budding painter, but it was actually a very effective way to teach observant eyes to see colors in the process of atmospheric movement and to appreciate the differences of sky, sea and landscape. In Ernest Untermann's own words from his Autobiographical Sketch, he says, “Ten years of seafaring enabled me to acquire by self-study a more thorough knowledge of zoology, paleontology, paleobotany, comparative anatomy, biology, and geology than the conventional university coarse can supply. Those worldwide trips also gave me access to the important art galleries and natural history museums of the world“. He later studied at the Chicago Institute of Art and the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee.

Ernest Untermann settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but because of his spirit of adventure and love of travel he also lived in Illinois, California, Oregon and Utah. Ernest was not only an artist but a translator and politician. In 1902 he translated from German to English, “Property and the State“ by Frederick Engels. In 1905 he published “Science and Revolution“. In 1907 he translated from German to English “Marxian Economics: a Popular Introduction to Three Volumes, including Das Capital“ by Karl Marx. All three books were printed by the Charles H. Kerr Company in Chicago which still publishes literature that is considered radical. At the Charles H. Kerr Company, Mr. Untermann became acquainted with Upton Sinclair and Jack London, whose works were also published by the same company.

For several years, Ernest was a member of the famed writers and artist colony, at Carmel-by-the-Sea in California .Ernest Untermann, along with Jack London, John Reid and others founded the “Socialist Party of America“. From 1908-1914, Ernest Untermann was a U.S. Senator form the State of California representing the American Socialist Party. Later in life Ernest distanced himself from Socialism when he realized that it had the effect on human nature to destroy incentive and promoted envy and suspicion, especially after the Russian Revolution in 1917. In 1919, he moved to the Vernal, Utah , while working as a mining engineer for a Chicago company at the Dyer Mine in the Uinta Mountains . He became acquainted with Earl Douglas, discoverer of the dinosaur quarry north of Jensen, Utah, which eventually became “ Dinosaur National Monument “.

Moving back to Milwaukee , Ernest Untermann was the Director of the Washington Park Zoo from 1935-1939. Ernest contributed articles to Parks and Recreation magazine and hosted the American Zoology Association Annual Conference in Milwaukee in 1938. While at the zoo Ernest was able to study the anatomy of many different animals first hand. This was very helpful in his later paintings of prehistoric life.

In 1946, Utah Governor Herbert B. Maw made $200.000 of Department of Publicity and Industrial Development funds available for the construction of the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal, Utah. Ernest Untermann's son, G.E. “Ernie“ Untermann with his wife Billie were Rangers and Naturalists at Dinosaur National Monument . Ernie Untermann was appointed director of the new Museum Project to see that the funds were held intact while preliminary plans for the museum were drawn up. Upon completion of the Museum in July 1948, the State of Utah appointed G.E.“Ernie“ Untermann, director and Billy Untermann staff scientist. Both also served as curators. They served many years under four different Utah Governors.

Ernest Untermann, Sr. joined the staff as artist, contributing over 100 paintings. Ernest Untermann, Sr. loved the remote rugged country of the Rocky Mountains and the High Uintas and painted many landscapes of the canyons, rock formations, rivers lakes and forests to be found there.

Ernest Untermann, Sr. was obsessed with the detailed authenticity of his dinosaur “reconstructions“ Sometimes his life-like paintings were produced after first modeling the subject in clay. Untermann produced a large body of dinosaur and prehistoric mammal paintings which can be found at Utah Field House Museum State Park in Vernal, Utah, Dinosaur Monument in Jensen, Utah, The Springville Art Museum in Springville, Utah, and elsewhere. Ernest Untermann had paintings in the inventory of Upton Sinclair, Jack London and The Charles H. Kerr Company.

Ernest Untermann died January 5 th , 1956 , at the age of 91 in Vernal, Utah . His life is best summed up in his own words, “No human faculty compares in value with the ability to search for the truth, to recognize it, love it and make every sacrifice for it.“

References

  1. University of Wisconsin , Milwaukee abstract Ernest Untermann papers 1933-1956
  2. Milwaukee Park Zoo, Ernest Untermann AZA President 1938-1939
  3. Autobiographical Sketch Ernest Untermann 1864-1956
  4. Guide to Dinosaur Land by G.E and Billie Untermann
  5. The Political Graveyard California Senators 1910's Ernest Untermann Socialist Party

For more information - archie paul mcfarland apaulmcfarland@hotmail.com

Biography courtesy of Archie Paul McFarland (former student)

Newspaper Articles

Cooper, Inez S. A Family and a Field House Deseret News, September 11, 1949.

Untermann, G.E. G.E. Untermann Arrives in Vernal During Winter of 1919, The Vernal Express, April 3, 1969.

Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: An Allegory of Prehistoric Monsters in Three Acts. The Vernal Express, December 21, 1950.

Books

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

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, Donna Poulton, and Janie Rogers. 150 Year Survey of Utah Art, Utah Artists. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2001.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Painting and Sculpture. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1991.

Untermann, G. Ernest. Guide to Dinosaur Land and the Unique Uinta Country. Vernal, UT: Utah Field House of Natural History 1972.

Untermann, G. E. and B. R. Untermann. Popular Guide to the Geology of Dinosaur National Monument. Jensen, UT: Dinosaur Nature Association, 1969.

Untermann, G. E. and B. R. Untermann. Geology of Uintah County. Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Geological and Mineral Survey, 1968.

Manuscript Collections

Artist of the Uintas, Ernest Gerhard Untermann Obituary. Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Ernest Untermann Observes 85th Birthday, November 6, 1954. Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Museum Completes Geological Mural, Ernest G. Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Valuable Murals Presented to Museum, Zoo, Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Scholarly Papers

Untermann, Ernest G. Art and Science Make a Team, Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Untermann, E. Art and Economics. Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Untermann, E. Landscape Painting and Geology. Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Newsletters

Untermann, E. A Different Zoo. Untermann Papers MS 118, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

 Last Modified 8/28/13