By Caroline Bliss Larsen (’15)
Anyone who’s romped in the red rocks of southern Utah would have felt at home in the MOA exhibit Simpler, Brighter, Stronger: Early Modernism and Southwest American Art. The exhibit featured 40 paintings depicting desert beauty—mesas, canyons, sunsets—and Native American culture.
Among these is the oil painting Great White Throne by neo-impressionist Phillip Henry Barkdull (BS ’28). Though Barkdull spent most of his artistic career teaching in secondary schools throughout Utah, he had a prolific creative period between 1927 and 1930 while taking summer classes at BYU and USU from renowned Swedish-American landscape painter Birger SandzÃ©n. Barkdull’s art was not well received by some Utah artists, who thought his style too radical. Art critics in New York, however, reviewed his works favorably. Even though Barkdull did not receive much local acclaim during his lifetime, in recent years his work has been rediscovered and widely appreciated.
Part of BYU’s permanent collection, Great White Throne depicts the mountain bearing the same name at Zion National Park. The name is based on Rev. 20:11 and was given in 1916 by Methodist minister Frederick Vining Fisher, who said he had “looked for this mountain all [his] life but never expected to find it in this world.” The imposing monolith is a stunning landmark in real life and on canvas.