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 George Martin Ottinger  (1833 - 1917)

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Lived/Active: Utah      Known for: religio-story, landscape and portrait painting

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Ad Code: 3
George Martin Ottinger
from Auction House Records.
The Last Ride of the Pony
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Bedford, Pennsylvania, George Ottinger became one of Utah's early painters, having moved there by wagon train in 1861 to accompany his mother, who had become a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Ottinger's subjects were western genre, landscapes, history and portraits, and some of his works reflected his travels to Europe and to Mexico where he did historical scenes of the Aztecs.

George Ottinger was raised as a Quaker and spent most of his childhood in New York City. At age 17, he ran away and became a sailor on a whaling ship and also mined for gold in California. At age 20, he returned to California, where he took art lessons from Robert Weir, and then at age 25, went briefly to Kentucky, where he had a job tinting photographs.

In Salt Lake City, in addition to his painting of Western genre, landscapes, and portraits, he was a partner in the photography firm of Savage & Ottinger, which became quite successful. He married, bought a home from Brigham Young for $125.00, acted in Shakespearian plays, served as fire chief and adjutant general of the National Guard, and in 1863, was President of the Deseret Fine Arts Association.

He traveled in Mexico where he painted historical and allegorical scenes of the Aztecs, and in 1876, he exhibited a painting "Montezuma Receiving news of the Landing of Cortez" at the Philadelphia Exhibition. In 1879, he traveled extensively in Europe. He remained an active painter to the end of his life.

Sources include:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

Marc Gregory Ottinger, great great grandson of the artist, communicated to that the middle name is spelled Martin, and not "Morton" as some art historians have recorded.

Biography from Anthony's Fine Art:
George M. Ottinger was born in Pennsylvania but was raised in New York City by his uncle.  When he was 17, he ran away to become a sailor on a whaling ship.  Later, he went to California to find gold, and by the age of 20, he had circumnavigated the globe.  At this time, Ottinger moved to New York City, where he studied briefly under Robert Weir before attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1861, after having been converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ottinger and his mother traveled in a wagon train from Florence, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, a distance of 1079 miles.  While in Utah, he engaged in a number of occupations.  He was the partner of the photographer C.R. Savage, and he painted scenery for the Salt Lake Theatre for four years as well as completing traditional paintings.  Ottinger did not get much money for his paintings; but despite this, he was an influential and respected man of the community.  He was Director of the Waterworks, Adjutant General of the National Guard, became President of the Deseret Academy in 1863, (later renamed the University of Utah) and was a Shakespearean actor.

As an artist, Ottinger can be classified as a Romantic Realist, and his style is both formal and naive in nature.  He painted a variety of subject matter including genre scenes, seascapes, landscapes, portraits, and historical events.  One of his paintings, Self-Portrait as Fire Chief, shows his naive style of painting.  The figures are stiff and stylized, and the perspective is unschooled.  But despite these elements, the painting historically depicts the artist's life with vibrant colors and an artistic eye.

The current value of his paintings is attributed, in part, to their accuracy and historic detail.  Among his major works are western scenes and a series of allegorical and historical interpretations of the history of Mexico.  These paintings provide the viewer with glimpses of the scenery, lifestyle, clothing, and other articles of the past.

Ottinger's art also is significant because it provided a base for Utah art.  He influenced many young Utah artists and was himself one of early Utah's most important artists.  He taught hundreds of students at Utah's first institution of higher learning, the University of Deseret, as well as in private lessons.

Unlike some art, Ottinger's work was valued during his lifetime.  Although he was not able to live off his earnings as an artist, he had many commissions and earned numerous medals and awards at art fairs.  In his later years Ottinger was challenged by a shift in stylistic tastes, as the art market preferred more impressionistic work. This shift in taste caused him to search for new subject matter that would interest his patrons. However, he never lost his zeal to keep painting.  At the age of 67 he wrote, "Individually I feel as young and ambitious and desirous to push ahead as ever, despite the years of discouragement and bad luck."

The Springville Museum of Art

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George Ottinger is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painted in Latin America

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