George Ottinger: Mormon Artist
George Martin Ottinger was an American artist, educator, and actor.
Ottinger was born in 1833 in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania, and raised in New York City by his uncle. He joined the crew of a whaling ship when he was 17 years old and within three years he had circumnavigated the globe. He also went to California to prospect for gold.
By age 20, he was ready to return to New York where he studied art under Robert Weir and then studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He painted miniatures in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for two years. His next move was to Kentucky where he tinted photographs and sold fruit.
Ottinger was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and joined in 1858. In 1861, he traveled with the Milo Andrus company by wagon train with his mother from Florence, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Utah. In Utah, he met photographer Charles Roscoe Savage and became his business partner. He also painted scenery for the Salt Lake Theatre, where he also acted. He was also director of the waterworks, adjutant general of the National Guard, president of the Deseret Academy in 1863. He was head of the Salt Lake fire department from 1876 to 1890 and helped bring the department from a volunteer to a paid organization.
He is important in the art world of Utah because he taught hundreds of students, including John Hafen and Lorus Pratt, at the Deseret Academy (from 1881 to 1892). He also taught privately. His Romantic Realist paintings are also important because of their accuracy and historic detail. His work was valued during his lifetime and he earned numerous medals and awards for them. He painted a series on the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
In 1879, Ottinger traveled to Europe with Savage as art missionaries to gain artistic skills. When he returned, he painted murals in the St. George Utah Temple, the Logan Utah Temple, and the Manti Utah Temple.
Ottinger married Mary Jane McAllister Cullin in 1861. They had one son before she died. He married Phoebe Neslen in 1864. He died in 1917.