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Mahonri Young

 (1877 - 1957)
Mahonri MacKintosh Young was active/lived in New York, Utah, Connecticut.  Mahonri Young is known for portrait and figure sculpture, Indians.

Mahonri Young

Biography from the Archives of askART

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mahonri Young is best known as a sculptor and painter of religious subjects and in New York City for sculpture and paintings of of boxers and laboring people.  In America he was one of the early sculptors of genre figures, that is everyday people going about their everyday lives. He introduced these social realist subjects in 1904, and this focus on non-lofty subjects has been perceived as a threat to the Beaux Arts style that had been prevalent because of the European academic training of the dominant sculptors such as Augustus Saint Gaudens. However, this new realism of Young's, inspired by his exposure to the French peasants in the paintings of Jean-Francois Millet, did not have wide-spread popularity until the 1930s.

Young was a grandson of Brigham Young, immigration leader of the Mormons to Utah, and as a boy he began sculpting with clay from the canal banks by his house. He was further inspired to sculpt when Cyrus Dalling came to Salt Lake to sculpt a statue of Mahonri's grandfather, Brigham Young. Young dropped out of school after the eighth grade to work in a stationery store and was also briefly a newspaper artist for the "Salt Lake Tribune."

In 1899, he enrolled in the Art Students League in New York and then studied in Paris at the Julian, Colarossi, and Delecluse academies and traveled extensively in Europe. Returning to the United States, he lived primarily in the East in New York City where he had a studio on 59th Street and a country home in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

He returned to Paris in 1923 to work with well-known architect, Bertram Goodhue, on a monument for the American Pro Cathedral. Young liked Paris so well, that two years later he returned with his family to spend another two and one-half years.

It was said that during this time, away from pressures of teaching at the Art Students League which he had done from 1916, his realistic style matured. Upon his return to New York, his exhibition at the Kraushaar Galleries in New York was reportedly one of the most successful shows of his career.

He continued his teaching at the Art Students League through the Depression years and was increasingly fascinated by the energy of boxing matches and construction laborers, which he reflected in his sculpted energetic figures such as "The Factory Worker."

He socialized in culturally elite circles and often attended boxing matches with illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. He also reached out to many aspiring Utah artists who came to New York to study including Waldo Park Midgley, Harold Burrows, and John Held, Jr.

Although he did not remain committed to the Mormon religion, church leaders commissioned him to do several major works including a life-size statue of Brigham Young for the United States Capitol building. In Arizona, in 1912, he did a series of drawings of Navaho Indians, which resulted in bronze reliefs, etchings, and pastels documenting Navaho life.

In 1939, Utah's most famous expatriate artist, gained a major commission from the state--the centennial year monument commemorating the arrival of the Mormon's in Utah. Young's work was titled "This Is The Place Monument," and was completed in 1947. It seemed a fitting, "full-circle" climax to his career, but he remained best known for his smaller figures of workers and athletes.

In 1948, Young was elected to full membership of the National Academy of Design in New York and spent the remaining ten years of his life as a revered elder statesman of the arts.

He was married twice, first to Celia, and after her death to Dorothy, daughter of artist J. Alden Weir. Their son, Mahonri Sharp Young, became a famous writer.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Donald Martin Reynolds, Masters of American Sculptors

Biography from Anthony's Fine Art
Mahonri Young was born August 9, 1877, twenty days before the death of his grandfather, Brigham Young.  Mahonri was the last grandchild born before Brigham's death.  Legend has it that Brigham's last words were, "How is the new grandson?"

Mahonri Young's Salt Lake high school experience was notably short„it lasted one day! He claimed he had "more important things to do."  The more important things were repairing the family furniture and modeling figures.  He was asked to mold the figure of a woman in butter for the creamery exhibit at the Utah State Fair. Completed and set in place, this work of art was as short lived as his high school education---someone forgot to shut the refrigerator door.

However, in 1897, determined to satisfy his interest in art, Young took a job at a bicycle repair and stationery shop in order to pay J. T. Harwood $2.50 a week for art lessons.  Describing his study of art, Young said: "I have always drawn, and since I was 18 have consciously tried to learn to draw.  I have loved and studied all the great draftsmen, but have always gone to nature for my material.  I have tried to make good drawings, not drawings that look good."

Mahonri Young learned about the national art scene by reading Harpers and Scribners magazines.  He worked in the Salt Lake Tribune's graphic department to earn enough money to study in New York City.  In 1899, he left Utah to attend the Art Student's League in New York City.  Once there, he studied under the academic muralist Kenyon Cox, learning his approach to representational art.  The New York experience was an eye opener for Salt Lake-born Mahonri Young.  However, in 1901, Young was forced to return to Salt Lake City for financial reasons.

Back in Utah, Young took a job with the Salt Lake Herald as a photo-engraver.  His dream was to save enough money to travel to Paris.  Once in Paris, Young had his time filled with academic study.  His real education, however, took place in the classrooms of nature, the studio, and the museum gallery.  As he studied, Young became aware that he tended to paint linear action studies, which related more to sculpture than to painting.  For this reason, he shifted his study to sculpture, but throughout his career, he was highly respected and won national prizes in watercolor, etching, and oil painting.  Although Young experimented in contemporary approaches to form, he always returned to realistic expression to pursue his interest in capturing the human figure in motion.

A stylizing Social Realist, Young was the winner of numerous awards and commissions on both local and national levels.  During his life, he completed approximately 120 sculptures, 300 etchings, 1500 watercolors, more than 100 oil paintings, and thousands of sketches.

Utah's most famous New York-based artist, Mahonri M. Young, spent the Great Depression teaching at the Art Student's League and doing work for the American Pavilion at the New York "World's Fair" of 1939.  His Factory Worker and his Farm Worker were included in the decorative architecture of the pavilion.

The Springville Museum of Art

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery
Mahonri MacIntosh Young was born in Salt Lake City, Utah August 9, 1877.  He was the grandson of Brigham Young, second leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints and Governor of Utah.

Young's father was a woodcarver, and Mahonri practiced modeling birds and animals from clay while his father worked. Later, he won considerable praise for his drawing ability, and decided to become an illustrator. Young studied drawing first under James T. Harwood in Salt Lake, and then obtained work as a staff artist for the Salt Lake Tribune and the old Salt Lake Herald.

Young largely pursued a career outside the old Deseret.  After he had saved enough, he traveled to New York and studied under painter Kenyon Cox at the Art Students League. Returning to Utah in 1901, he worked at the Herald and saved his salary for training in France.  With that money and a small inheritance from his grandfather's estate he was able to leave for Paris.

Paris was decisive for Young.  He studied at the Julian, Delecluse, and Colarossi academies. Here he quickly realized that as a painter he created linear action studies more related to sculptural design.  From that point forward he set his sights on being a sculptor and etcher.

Next, Mahonri moved back to New York City and lead an exciting life as a successful artist. In 1912, at the age of thirty-five, he was made an associate member of the National Academy of Design.  He was given a full commission by the American Museum of Natural History to model groups of Arizona Indian figures.  Following the trip to Arizona, he created many sculptures of Indians, cowboys and animal life.

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About  Mahonri Young

Born:  1877 - Salt Lake City, Utah
Died:   1957 - Norwalk, Connecticut
Known for:  portrait and figure sculpture, Indians