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Lorus Pratt: Mormon Artist
Latter-day Saint artists John Hafen and Lorus Pratt, yearning to contribute to the beautification of their home in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, asked the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for financial assistance to travel to Paris to receive the training they knew they needed. In exchange for their training, they would paint murals in the temples and provide any other art services the Church may need. In June 1890, President George Q. Cannon told them their proposal had been accepted.
Five artists were set apart as art missionaries and sent to study in Paris. Pratt, Hafen, and John Fairbanks were sent first, with Edwin Evans and Herman Haag joining them later. They studied at the Academie Julian. Despite the challenges of frugal living arrangements and instruction in a crowded art academy, the Utah artists distinguished themselves and won several competitions. Pratt was the first of the missionaries to have a drawing chosen in a weekly contest for the best drawing at the academy. Their Paris training produced artists who gained new techniques and greater sophistication and accuracy in perspective and proportions. They were influenced by French Impressionism and its emphasis on landscapes and the effects of natural light by painting en plein air.
Lorus Pratt served several missions for the Church of Jesus Christ before he went to Paris. He served in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and England. While in England he helped his father organize the chapter and verse structure found in the Book of Mormon today.
Pratt studied art under George Ottinger and Danquart Weggeland. He married Harriett Elzina Wheeler in 1879. She traveled to Francee with Pratt and their four children in 1885. She was six months pregnant when he departed for Paris to study art in 1890. While in France, he also served as president of the French mission.
When he returned, he helped with the mural paintings in the Salt Lake Temple as well as the Manti Utah Temple, the Logan Utah Temple, and the St. George Utah Temple. Pratt farmed and cared for his family of six children. He painted several portraits but most of his paintings dealt with agriculture. His paintings portrayed the agrarian development of both the Salt Lake and Cache valleys. He was also an English instructor at the University of Deseret. His art did not gain acceptance so most of his art went to relatives or creditors.
Pratt died on December 30, 1923 in Salt Lake City.