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LeConte Stewart: Masterworks - Finally Available  

“Nostalgia is part of my respect for what LeConte Stewart does. But the hard-mouthed integrity of the life-view is more important.  There is something in his best paintings that does not depend on nostalgia but upon recognition of a less parochial kind.” Wallace Stegner

“One of Utah’s most accomplished and beloved artists.” —Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Utah artist LeConte Stewart (1891–1990) created images of Utah and the West at once epic and intimate. His farms, deserts, and urban landscapes capture a region and an era. Influenced by John Carlson, Maynard Dixon, and Edward Hopper, Stewart is a valued and important voice in this period of American art. This long-awaited volume includes more than 300 paintings, many never before seen or brought together in one work.

Includes essays by Mary Muir, Donna Poulton, Robert Davis, James Poulton, and Vern Swanson. It also features an introduction by noted American art scholar, curator, and collector William Gerdts.

Mary Muir is one of the foremost authorities on LeConte Stewart and his work, and the author of LeConte Stewart: The Education of the Artist and the Artist- Educator.

Donna Poulton, Ph.D., is a curator of the art of Utah and the West at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Robert Davis is curator of art for the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

James Poulton, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Salt Lake City.

Vern Swanson is director of the Springfield Museum of Art in Utah.

To purchase a copy of LeConte Stewart: Masterworks through for $70 plus $5 shipping. (List price of the book is $75.) Just click on the PayPal button below.


Impressions of the West: Wallace Stegner (Repost - March 1, 2011)

Photo courtesy of

From The Sense of Place, by Wallace Stegner (1992):

"Back to Wendell Berry, and his belief that if you don’t know where you are you don’t know who you are. He is not talking about the kind of location that can be determined by looking at a map or a street sign. He is talking about the kind of knowing that involves the senses, the memory, the history of a family or a tribe. He is talking about the knowledge of place that comes from working in it in all weathers, making a living from it, suffering from its catastrophes, loving its mornings or evenings or hot noons, valuing it for the profound investment of labor and feeling that you, your parents and grandparents, your all-but-unknown ancestors have put into it. He is talking about the knowing that poets specialize in.

It is only a step from his pronouncement to another: that no place is a place until it has had a poet. 

No place, not even a wild place, is a place until it has had that human attention that at its highest reach we will call poetry. What Frost did for New Hampshire and Vermont, what Faulkner did for Mississippi and Steinbeck for the Salinas Valley, Wendell Berry is doing for his family corner of Kentucky, and hundreds of other place-loving people, gifted or not, are doing for places they were born in, or reared in, or have adopted and made their own…"        


Impressions of the West: Thomas Hart Benton (Repost - Feb. 15, 2011)

The first in our series on Impressions of the West from great authors:

Thomas Hart Benton, ca. 1937.

"Where does the West begin?

Strung in a zigzag pattern up and down the ninety-eight-degree line, there is a marked change of country which is observable wherever you journey westward, whether in the North, the middle country, or the South. About this line, though the exact distance from it is highly variable, the air becomes clearer, the sky bluer, and the world immensely bigger. There are great flat stretches of land in Louisiana, there are prairies in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, but the experienced traveler in the United States does not confuse these with the West. Even though these more eastern prairies may present the same great vistas which are connected in our thoughts with the West, they lack the character of infinitude which one gets past the ninety-eight-degree line.

In the prairie lands, coming between the old forest country of the Middle West and the plains, one is able at times to see for great distances, but it is as if one were set down in the center of a big plate with elevated edges. There are definite ends to the horizon, which acts as an enclosure and sets a limit to things. In the West proper there are no limits. The world goes on indefinitely. The horizon is not seen as the end of a scene. It carries you on beyond itself into farther and farther spaces. Even the tremendous obstructions of the Rocky Mountains do not affect the sense of infinite extension which comes over the traveler as he crosses the plains. Unless you are actually in a pocket or a canyon, the Rocky Mountains rise in such a way, tier behind tier, that they carry your vision on and on, so that the forward strain of the eyes is communicated to all the muscles of the body and you feel actually within yourself the boundlessness of the world. You feel that you can keep moving forever without coming to any end. this is the physical effect of the West.

There are many people for whom this effect is unbearable, especially as it is manifested on the great plains. Cozy-minded people for whom life's values reside in little knicknacks which must be kept within easy reach, people for whom the sense of intimacy is necessary for emotional security, hate the brute magnitude of the plains country. All their familiar urges are inhibited by the great empty stretches of land and sky, by the immensity which reduces even a city to an anthill. Time and again on motorbusses and trains I've heard people complain of the monotony, the weariness, the oppressiveness of the plains. I've heard them groan over the misery of their journey.

For me the great plains have a releasing effect. They make me want to run and shout at the top of my voice. I like their endlessness. I like the way they make human beings appear as the little bugs they really are. I like the way they make thought seem futile and ideas but the silly vapors of the physically disordered. To think out on the great plains, under the immense rolling skies and before the equally immense roll of the earth, becomes a presumptuous absurdity. Human effort is seen there in all its pitiful futility. The universe is unveiled there, stripped to dirt and air, to wind, dust, cloud and the white sun. The indifference of the physical world to all human effort stands revealed as hard inescapable fact."

An Artist In America, by Thomas Hart Benton       

 Thomas Hart Benton, ca. 1937.

Thomas Hart Benton, ca. 1937.


The Schopenhauer Reading Society

By Jim Poulton

Credit: Utah Historical SocietyI come by my reading society bona fides honestly. I’m the proud member of two reading groups, both of which began in 1982. But that’s not all. Apparently, this obsession with reading is genetic. My great great aunt, if I can believe what my mother told me when I was a child, started the Schopenhauer Reading Society in Idaho Falls, Idaho in the 1880s or 1890s. My mother was proud of this aunt – proud that she’d been an intellectual in the early days of the state, and that she’d read books that didn’t make it on her religious community’s list of approved works. Even the title – the Schopenhauer Reading Society, named after the philosopher, professional curmudgeon and pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer – seemed to be a statement of my aunt’s independent spirit.

Schopenhauer’s Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. Credit: zvab.comI’ve asked through my family about this aunt, and no one knows anything about her. If she and the Schopenhauer Reading Society existed, they’re lost in the winds of time. But it got me wondering – how common were reading societies in the early West? And what was their purpose?

Here are a couple of examples.

Credit: Utah Historical SocietyIn Silvana, Washington, the Norsk Læse- og Samtaleforening (roughly the Norwegian Reading Society) was formed sometime around the mid 1800s. It was centered in the Norwegian Lutheran community, but its constitution could have been written by my iconoclastic aunt. “The society,” it said, “is not a religious society,” meaning they didn’t want the church telling them what to think or read. The purpose of the society was to promote the “profitable use of idle time” through “the purchase and reading of good books together with conversation.” In other words, as a group they bought books and passed them around among their members, so everyone could read them.

Miss Foster, faculty at Carlisle Indian School, full length, reclining in chair, reading a book, 1864. Credit: Library of CongressThis is one of the things I love about the history of the West. In the 1800s, the West was wild and wooly, as we all know. But a lot of people were also striving to use their minds as well as their muscles. A friend of mine told me once that a great great grandfather of his, who settled in Wyoming in the 1860s, paid big money to have philosophy books, written in German and French, brought to him on the Union Pacific train from New York.

Here’s another example:

Farm boy reading jokes as his part of the program at the literary society meeting. Pie Town, New Mexico. Credit: Library of Congress. Circa 1940In February 1874, two young men in Salt Lake City were feeling pessimistic about their hopes of finding true romance. One of them, Jim Ferguson, “had heard, no doubt, of fond couples ‘reading life’s meaning in each others eyes,’” and suggested that they form an association of readers. A short while later, the Wasatch Literary Society was born. It wasn’t that unusual – even at that early date. As the journal BYU Studies says, ‘the 1870s were ripe for cultural societies’ in the Intermountain West, and by 1874, the early Mormon settlers had already fostered many cultural societies, including the ‘Polysophical,’ the ‘Philomathian,’ and the ‘Universal Scientific’ societies, all devoted to expanding the cultural literacy of their members.

Homer Brown joined the Salt Lake Polysophical Society in December 1855. Credit: GatheringGardiners.Blogspot.comThe Wasatch Literary Society was relatively short-lived, and met its ignominious end in 1878. But while it was going, it drew some of the brightest lights of the young pioneers, and presumably Jim Ferguson and his friend finally found romance.

Emily Wells, early member of the Wasatch Reading Society. Credit: Growing Up Early in Utah



Gary Cooper – Enduring Style

By Bennett Owen

“He conveyed a straightforwardness and an honest, American handsomeness that seemed to both ignore and rise above the contrived glamour and studied posturing that had characterized so many other film heroes...No matter what costume he put on, he looked like he owned it. The camera loved him, and so did the box office.” – Gary Cooper: Enduring Style

 Enduring Style, by G. Bruce Boyer and Maria Cooper Janis
, Foreword by Ralph Lauren. Credit: abebooks.comGary Cooper spent the first two decades of his life working his father’s cattle ranch in Montana and failing at pretty much everything else he attempted, even being rejected by his college drama club before he dropped out of school.  Yet he somehow went from simple cowboy to enduring American legend, cultivating his unique brand of manliness, debonair and down to earth, suave without the slightest hint of arrogance.

Credit:“Coop” is widely regarded as the most popular film star of all time, and director Billy Wilder described his gift as “a love affair between performer and celluloid.”  But in this magnificent book it’s his fashion sense that’s on display…and again, the book puts it best:

“…he had devised and perfected his own debonair style that combined a perfectly tailored European wardrobe with all-American casual sportswear to produce the first, and still finest example of elegant, international, masculine style rooted in an American ideal of the everyman as hero. From the most casual sports clothing to the most formal white tie and tails, Cooper carried himself with uncontrived conviction.“

Credit: themusedeyeWe added a few of our favorite pictures:


Credit: GaryCooperScrapbookCredit: docormacro