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William W. Major

William Warner Major was born in Bristol, England in 1804. He was the earliest professional artist to go to Salt Lake as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He died in London, England in 1854.

Major converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842. He immigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844. Although he had minimal artistic training, authorities of The Church assigned him to document the overland trip from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City.

Major painted a group likeness of Brigham and his family, Brigham Young, Mary Ann Angell Young and Family.  Parishort, Leap of Elk, Chief of Corn Creek, Near Fillmore, Pauvan (1852), and Wash'echick , Chief of Shoshomas Tribe (1852) are watercolors exemplifying the Native American themes.

Biography adapted from Springville Museum of Art.

Born in Briston, England, Major was a self trained or minimally schooled painter when he was converted to the L.D.S. Church in London in 1842. In winter of 1844, he and his family left England for America, and finally arrived at Nauvoo in spring 1845.

Once in Illinois, the Majors became well acquainted with the authorities of the L.D.S. Church, and William was extensively employed by them as an artist. Under Brigham Young's leadership, both the importance and material progress of Nauvoo continued briefly, and in the neoclassical and even palatial setting for Brigham Young, Mary Ann Angell Young and Family (oil on canvas, L.D.S. Church), Major presented something grander yet.

The artist carried that unfinished picture to Winter Quarters in 1846, and was assigned to paint and sketch views on the way to Utah. Then, following his September 1847 arrival in Great Salt Lake City, Major purchased property and spent the next five years there while making visits to various spots in the surrounding countryside to paint landscape scenes and portraits of other settlers as well as pictures of the indigenous Indian population. Then, on April 6, 1853, Major was called on a mission to England for the L.D.S. Church; on October 2, 1854, he died there, not all that far away from where he came from. His remains were shipped back to Utah.

Biography courtesy Springville Museum of Art.

Newspaper Articles

"Capturing The Great Mormon Saga." The Deseret News, July 24, 1988.

"Pioneer Artists Enriched Mountain Zion." The Deseret News, October 16, 1993.

"Pioneer Artists: New Exhibit Features Art By Nine Early Utah Artists." The Deseret News, September 26, 1993.

Books

Axelrod, Alan. Art of the Golden West. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990.

Dawdy, Doris. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago, IL: Sage Books, 1990.

Dunbier, Lonnie Pierson, ed. The Artists Bluebook: 29,000 North American Artists. Scottsdale, AZ: AskART.com, 2003.

Fairbanks Jonathan L. Frontier America/ The Far West. Boston, MA: Museum of Fine Arts

Gerdts, William H. Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990.

Groce, George C., and David H. Wallace. The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.

Haseltine, James L. 100 Years of Utah Painting: Selected Works from the 1840s to the 1940s. Salt Lake City, UT: Salt Lake Arts Center, 1965.

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

Samuels, Peggy, and Harold Samuels. The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976.

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

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books, 1991.

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

Who Was Who in America. A Component Volume of Who's Who in American History. Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Revised Edition. Chicago, IL: Marquis Who's Who, 1967.

 Last Modified 8/28/13