Lee Greene Richards: Mormon Artist

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Lee Greene Richards Mormon Artist

Lee Greene Richards is a Utah portrait artist known for his paintings that are found at the City and County Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. He helped paint the murals found on the dome of the Utah State Capitol building. His father, Levi Richards, and his grandmother Sarah Griffith Richards were also painters.

Richards was born on July 27, 1878, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was named Levi after his father, but always went by Lee. He grew up near other notable LDS artists, including George Ottinger, Mahonri Young, and A. B. Wright. Richards, Young, and Wright studied under James T. Harwood. While on his mission to England for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Richards visited the British museums to study the masters and had opportunity to draw the English countryside. He was able to visit Paris at the conclusion of his mission, and he promised himself he would work hard to save money for a return to Paris. He worked for three years at Zions Savings Bank in Utah to accomplish his goal.

Several other LDS artists studied at the Academie Julian in Paris, including John Hafen, Lorus Pratt, John Fairbanks, and Torleif Knaphus. Richards studied there beginning in 1901. He passed a rigorous entrance exam to also study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and stayed in Paris from 1901 to 1904. In 1904, he was the first Utah artist to be placed at the top of the list for honorable mention at the Salon des Artists Francais. The International Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Etchers exhibited his paintings throughout England and in Chicago, San Francisco, and Pennsylvania. He returned to Utah in 1904, opened a studio, and was commissioned to paint many portraits. Four years later, he married Mary Jane Eldredge, the daughter of a successful banker. Her dowry made it possible for them to honeymoon in Paris for a year. They returned to Utah in 1910.

Richards painted the portraits of many of the presidents and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ. He frequently painted portraits of his children. He continued to paint portraits, but also painted landscapes, murals, and still lifes. He painted a mural for the Cardston Alberta Temple and for the Mesa Arizona Temple. He was an art professor at the University of Utah from 1938 to 1947. Richards also has the distinction of being the only American to serve as a judge at the Salon d’Automne (1921).

He died on February 20, 1950.