Lewis Ramsey: Mormon Artist
Lewis A. Ramsey was a Western artist and painted portraits and landscapes. He also painted religious works, most notably an image of Joseph Smith being shown the plates. He worked on murals for eighteen months at the Hawaii Temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beginning in 1918.
Ramsey was born on March 24, 1873, in Bridgeport Illinois. His family immigrated to Utah when he was twelve years old.
He began to draw at age five and his older brother noticed Ramsey’s skill with perspective. One of his teachers in Bridgeport encouraged him, but others reprimanded him for drawing instead of doing his classwork. At the age of thirteen, he visited his brother in Springville, Utah, and there he had the opportunity to study and live with artist John Hafen. Ramsey attended Brigham Young Academy at the age of sixteen and taught penmanship. In 1892, he began studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. At age 22, he traveled to Boston to attend the Cowles Art School and paid his way by retouching negatives. He also studied in New York and took lessons from Douglas Volk, who was a student of John Singer Sargent. He briefly returned to Utah before heading to Chicago to attend Smith’s Art School. To pay for his three years of study, he continued to retouch negatives and finished crayon enlargements of type. His skills in this work enabled him to help pay for his sister Emma’s vocal studies in Europe. She later helped him travel to Paris to attend the Académie Julian. When he returned to Utah, he taught art at the LDS University in Salt Lake City from 1903 to 1905. He also did portrait work. He submitted some pastel drawings and canyon portrait to the1894 Territorial Fair. In 1898, he purchased the John B. Fairbanks photo studio and gallery in Provo.
It is said that Ramsey was the first to paint Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks. He became famous for his paintings of Zion Canyon. He also painted the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park. After 1915, he focused primarily on his landscapes.
Ramsey painted for the WPA in 1936 and took a group of fellow workers to paint dioramas of Indian life and customs. He also painted portraits and scenes in Arizona, Wyoming, and Nevada.
Ramsey married Elizabeth Patterson Brown on October 12, 1904, and they were the parents of six children. He died on May 11, 1941, in Los Angeles.