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  • Robert L. Marshall

Robert L. Marshall

Robert LeRoy Marshall was born in Mesquite, Nevada in 1944. A filmmaker, painter, and educator, he is known for large oils, documentary films, and as former chair of the art department at Brigham Young University. He lives in Springville, Utah.

Marshall earned a BA in 1966, and an MFA in 1968 from BYU where he was first influenced by Andrew Wyeth's work. As his career advanced, he began working on large-scale oil paintings and drew his influence from both abstract expressionism and realism.

Snow Canyon (1984), Money Plant (1982), and The Shroud (1983) are part of the Springville Museum of Art's permanent collection. Cobalt Pool II (2000) is an example of his later work. Marshall is also a documentary film maker well known for his film about early Utah painter C. C. A. Christensen.

Biography adapted from Springville Museum of Art.

Robert Marshall was born in Mesquite, Nevada. He attended Brigham Young University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1966 and a Master of Arts in 1968. He began teaching soon after graduation at Fullerton College in California. In 1969, he moved to Utah to join the studio art faculty at B.Y.U.. He has served as Chairman of the Art Department for 12 years and as director of study abroad programs in London and in Madrid. Marshall believes that as a professor, he can give back to humankind some of what he has been given. Part of the fulfillment he finds in teaching comes from being able to share in the creative processes of others.

Marshall is an accomplished draftsman and is knowledgeable in color theory, filmmaking, and in contemporary art history. As a painter, he originally was best known for his watercolor landscapes, but after a time he felt the need to grow and progress, and he took a leave of absence from the university and began working in oils on large canvases. Since that time, he has gone from painting his children and patterns and objects in his house, to a series of paintings of pottery, to a series combining pottery and fabric, he felt the need to add some rectangles and sharp edges to the ovals and the ellipses of the pots. He says he got very interested in the folds of the fabric, the paintings became like little landscapes to him. The next move, from painting fabric to actual landscapes, came naturally.

Bob Marshall, unlike some contemporary artists, is convinced “that the landscape tradition is still a viable option and has a justifiable place in contemporary painting.“ For Marshall, awareness of the intrinsic (and I believe lasting) beauty of a particular location is always intensified through private rather than collective discovery. Quiet hikes into the landscape intensify our connection with the land in a way that standing on the periphery and observing the obvious can never accomplish.

In both his watercolors and his more recent oils, Marshall shares his discoveries and invites us into his “private dialogue with the patterns, colors and textures that usually go unnoticed.“ His watercolors have a sense of intimacy of place that have been intensified in his latest works, large, richly colored canvases entitled The Wetland Series. These paintings are often praised for their beauty, although Marshall says the paintings are of areas many people would pass by without noticing. Unconventional landscapes, they are tightly focused examinations of the cycle of life in the wetlands, growth, death, and decay, an intense look at the natural elements where land and water meet.

Marshall's paintings are influenced by both Abstract Expressionism and Realism. In the simplest sense, Marshall's paintings are about surface, color, and form. On a more complex level, they are descriptions of realities. Through the contrast of illusionary three-dimensional form and the two-dimensionality of the paints, Marshall hopes to engage and momentarily dislocate the viewer. He tells us:

“Interlocking passages of color areas simultaneously confirm and deny the flatness of the picture plane as forms emerge from the paint. I am not however, dealing with contradictions, but rather I want each painting to be delicious and inviting, a confirmation of multiple layers of reality.“

Marshall is interested in helping the viewer to meditate and ask questions that perhaps would not otherwise have been asked. This kind of dimensional interplay is one way by which he can accomplish this goal.

Snow Canyon was painted on site during a painting trip Marshall took with students in 1984. It is a delicate but detailed view of the this scenic canyon, just north of St. George, Utah. Although the painting is a watercolor, the rock formations have mass and solidity and a strong sense of agelessness. Marshall has captured both the look and the feel of the area, huge weathered rock faces and dry desert, sprinkled with just enough green to heighten the contrast between inhospitable rock and only slightly more hospitable ground. Marshall says his focus in the painting was on trying to capture the varying textures of the scene. To reproduce the textures he used a technique like dry brush watercolor, with a lot of surface texture, layering of colors, and a little opaque watercolor.

The design of the painting leads viewers' eyes into the rock formation, following what at first glance appears to be water but then becomes clearly a dry creek bed, shaped by the passage of water it once held. The rocks themselves have intriguing crevices, inviting exploration, and the soft complementary colors of the rocks and vegetation produce a richness often missing in watercolors. It is a painting to be lived with, to return to over and over again.

Biography courtesy Springville Museum of Art.

Newspaper Articles

"Artist Protests BYU Removal Of `Angry' Nude Paintings From Students' Exhibit." The Salt Lake Tribune, March 5, 1993.

"Ex-Visual Arts Chairman To Speak At B.Y.U. Devotional." The Deseret News, June 9, 2003.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, January 3, 1993.

"Mozart Speaks: Views on Music, Musicians, and the World selected and with commentary by Robert L. Marshal." Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1991.

"Showing At Local Galleries." The Deseret News, June 8, 2003. 

"Showing At Local Galleries." The Deseret News, April 9, 2000. 


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 L. Rogers. 150 Year Survey Utah Art & Artists. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2002.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishing Co, 1991.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Painting and Sculpture. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1997.

 Last Modified 4/1/20