Mahonri Young: Mormon Artist
Mahonri Mackintosh Young was an American sculptor, painter, watercolorist, printmaker, teacher, and lecturer best known for his sculptures. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His Artistic Training
Young was born on August 9, 1877, in Salt Lake City to Mahonri Moriancumer Young and Agnes Mackintosh Young. He was given a blessing by his grandfather, Brigham Young, a few days before his grandfather died. He lived with his family at the Deseret Woolen Mills near the mouth of Parley’s Canyon until age six years old when his father died. The family then moved to a small cottage in Salt Lake City.
His father carved wooden objects for him when he was ill and gave him clay to model with. His mother bought him a woodcarving set when he was eleven and his first carving was a bas-relief of Julius Caesar. Young dropped out of school in eighth grade; he preferred to study under Utah artist James T. Harwood instead. He paid for his lessons by working in a stationery store and curio shop. Harwood encouraged him to train in New York and Paris, so he worked as a portrait artist for the Salt Lake Herald and the Salt Lake Tribune and as an engraver for the Tribune to earn money for the trip.
He went to New York City in 1899 to study for eight months at the Art Students’ League. He came back to Salt Lake to earn more money by photo engraving for the Herald. A year later he was able to go to Paris where he studied for four years.
In Paris he studied at the Academie Julian and began to create small sculptures of laborers, which brought him critical acclaim as a student and later, in New York, national recognition. He worked hard to acquire as much artistic skill as possible while in Europe. He returned to Utah in 1905.
A Focus on Sculpture
His first commissioned sculpture was a three-foot tall Dairy Maid made of butter for the Utah State Fair. Among his other well-known sculptures were the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statues and the Seagull Monument, located on Temple Square; and the This Is the Place Monument, located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. His last major work was a sculpture of his grandfather Brigham Young, located in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Young married Cecilia Sharp in 1907 and they had two children. In 1910, Young moved his family to New York City. He won a national prize for one of his sculptures of laborers. He as a Social Realist and often focused on the working class. His wife died of cancer in 1917.
In 1925, he moved back to Paris, where he did a series of prizefighter sculptures. He won a Gold Medal for sculpture in the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games with his piece called Knockdown. He also created Native American statues for the American Museum of Natural History. During the Depression, he taught at the Art Student’s League. He met and married Dorothy Weir, daughter of artist J. Alden Wier, in February 1931. She also died of cancer in 1947.
Young died in Norwalk, Connecticut, on November 2, 1957. During his lifetime he completed approximately 120 sculptures, 300 etchings, 1500 watercolors, 100 oil paintings, and thousands of sketches.