Mormon artist Minerva Teichert paints pioneers and western art

Early in her career, Minerva Teichert studied drawing and portraiture with Robert Henri in New York City. When she finished her education, Henri asked her if an artist had told “the great Mormon story.” Teichert said, “Not suitable for me.”

Henri paused and said, “That’s your birthright. You feel it. Be well.” In an unpublished manuscript, Teichert recorded this experience, writing, “I felt like I had been given an assignment.”

Teichert, a Latter-day Saint artist from a homestead in Idaho, later went on to create paintings that appeared in Church magazines and manuals and hung on the walls of chapels. Best known for her mural in the Utah Manti Temple, Teichert created many iconic paintings of pioneers of Latter-day Saints, Book of Mormon events, and Jesus Christ.

Not long after she was married, her husband, Herman Teichert, was stationed in France during World War I. While he was gone, Minerva Teichert fell ill with the flu. She realized how sick she was and, reflecting on that experience, she wrote: “Suddenly I was very sensitive. I promised the Lord that if I would finish my work and He would give me some work, I would be happy to do it. With this covenant in my heart I began to live.’

Herman Teichert returned to the United States after the war, and their small family moved west to a cattle ranch in Wyoming, where Minerva Teichert made her studio. The studio was nestled in the same room where the family cooked and ate their meals and read the scriptures and literature together.

Influenced by her teacher and famous portraitist Henri, Teichert used large brushes and loose brushstrokes in her art. She incorporated her training in figure drawing to keep the people in her paintings recognizable.

Teichert’s paintings often had Western themes. She became an accomplished muralist, portraying events from the history and writings of the Latter-day Saints. Teichert created a series of paintings depicting the pioneers of the Latter-day Saints, which clashed between Western themes and the story of her faith. These pioneer paintings were revolutionary because they depicted women in powerful ways, often as the primary subjects of the paintings.

“Get Ye Up in the High Mountain, Oh Zion” oil painting by Minerva Teichert.

Her pioneer paintings span a wide variety of images, from the “Miracle of the Gulls” experience to Brigham Young and his pushcart company entering the Salt Lake Valley. These pioneer paintings were not only mural-like in style, but also in size.

One of Teichert’s most famous paintings was a portrait of Queen Esther from the Hebrew Bible. This painting contains one of Teichert’s characteristic edges, which mimics a mural style. Her broad brushstrokes create blurred figures in the background, with Esther as the prominent figure of the painting.

Portrait of Queen Esther by Minerva Teichert.  The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the bravery of Esther.

Portrait of Queen Esther by Minerva Teichert. The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the bravery of Esther.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Teichert’s talent led her to become a high-profile recording artist in Utah. She painted what are now beloved classic images in Latter-day Saint artworks.

LDS artist Minerva Teichert's

Minerva Teichert paints “The First Vision” (1934) which shows a key moment of the restoration.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art

As Teichert became a more accomplished artist, she won first place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centennial art competition. Her success prompted the Church to invite her to become the first woman to paint a temple mural. In 1947, she painted a nearly 4,000-square-foot mural in the Manti Utah Temple.

After painting the mural of the Manti Temple, Teichert continued painting art with the theme of Latter-day Saints. She then painted 42 different paintings depicting Book of Mormon stories.

Mormon artist Minerva Teichert paints pioneers and western art

Minerva Teichert portrays “King Benjamin’s Farewell Address” in a ca. 1949-1951 oil on masonite painting.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art

Teichert had hoped to sell the Book of Mormon paintings to the Church so that it could publish them. No one was interested in publishing the paintings, so she donated them to Brigham Young University. This was the end of Teichert’s religious art career.

A grandchild once asked Teichert if she was famous. Teichert said, “No, but one day I will be.”

In addition to painting, Teichert served in the Church as Primary president, gospel teaching teacher, beehive teacher, and member of the stake Sunday School board. Teichert had a strong Latter-day sacred faith, and dreams characterized her spiritual life.

As a young mother, she dreamed that she would soon have a daughter. Within the following year, she gave birth to her only daughter, Laurie. Although she painted nearly a thousand different pieces of art, Teichert loved her family and every evening, while the family ate together, she read literature, history, and the scriptures.

Teichert was a pioneer of Latter-day Saints. She insisted, “I have to paint.” She even wrote in her autobiography, “I want to… be able to paint after I get out of here. Even if I came back nine times, I still wouldn’t have exhausted my stock of subjects and one time is way too short, but can be a training for the next.”

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