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 Alma (A.B.) Brockerman Wright  (1875 - 1952)



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Lived/Active: Utah / France      Known for: landscape, portrait and mural painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An accomplished landscape, portrait, figure and mural artist, Alma Wright was respected both as an artist and a dignified, attractive man with high personal standards, the result of Mormon upbringing and art studies in Europe.  He devoted most of his career to teaching art in Utah.

He was born and raised in Salt Lake City in a neighborhood with Mahonri Young and Lee Greene Richards, future well-known artists influenced by George Ottinger, from whom they took lessons at his neighborhood studio in the 1880s and 1890s. They later referred to themselves as the "20th Ward Group."

Wright studied at Ladder Day Saints College from 1892 to 1895 and then at the University of Utah from 1895 to 1896, the student of Herman Haag and James Harwood.  He worked as an instructor of art at Brigham Young College in Logan and then left for Europe.

From 1902 to 1904, he studied in Paris at the Academies Julian with Jean Paul Laurens and then at the Academies Colarossi and Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Leon Bonnat.  He developed an impressionist style similar to James Whistler and was later regarded as one of the "liberated" Utah artists influenced by modernism including Fauvism.

In 1913, he exhibited a portrait at the Paris Salon and trying to relate his art expression to his Mormon religion, spoke of finding spiritual significance in his subjects.  He also entered and won prizes at many Utah state art exhibitions,

He was described as a "well built little man with an immaculately groomed and trimmed mustache" (94), and was a championship fencer.  He first won the intermountain title with the foil in 1897, and continued to defend that title for many years and also to coach fencing.

In the 1920s, he traveled extensively doing mural work for Mormon temples including ones in Mesa, Arizona, Canada, and Hawaii.  In 1932, he became head of the Art Department of the University of Utah, a job he held until he entered World War II.  He was captured in France and spent much time in a German prison camp. In 1952, he died at Le Bugue, Dordogne, France.

In addition to his murals in Mormon temples, they are located in the Utah State Capitol Building and the Springville Art Museum.

Vern Swanson, Utah Art

Biography from Anthony's Fine Art:
Alma Wright, born and reared in the Avenues of Salt Lake City, grew up in the neighborhood of Utah pioneer artist George Martin Ottinger.  Ottinger influenced Wright and his boyhood friends, Mahonri Young, Lee Greene Richards, and Jack Sears with his friendship, with his willingness to let them visit his art studio, with art lessons, and later with encouragement to continue studying art in Utah and abroad.

Wright attended LDS College from 1892 through 1895, and the University of Utah from 1895 through 1896 with J. T. Harwood and Herman Haag as his instructors. Both Harwood and Haag had recently returned from study in France.

In 1899 Wright took a position teaching art at Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah where stayed until leaving for France in 1902.  When Wright reached Paris he joined his old friend, Lee Greene Richards, among others from Utah.  Wright enrolled in the Académie Julian where life-drawing was intensely practiced as the base of all painting and sculpture.  In fact, the studio was so crowded that painting was not allowed, but had to be done elsewhere.  At Académie Julian, Wright honed his drawing skills to a high level of competency.  His love of drawing is evident in the fact that he continued to produce life-drawing throughout his life.

Wright also attended the Académie Colarossi and the École des Beaux-Arts while in France before returning to Utah, where he rejoined the art department at Brigham Young College.

In 1910 he took a position at LDS College. Among his students at LDS College were Avard Fairbanks, Gordon Cope, Paul Smith, Clyde Cornick, and William Parkinson.  Parkinson said of Wright, ". . . after I graduated from high school we'd still go to the high school . . . with Abby Wright and he'd teach us. . . . We didn't pay him.  He just did it for free. . . . We were all interested in art. . . we had quite a gang of artists . . . and we became pretty good."

During this period Wright was a successful portrait and landscape artist as well as mural painter.

Wright left for another period of study in France in 1929 where he attended the Grande Chaumiere and studied privately in Belgium.  Wright, already a successful, accomplished artist, produced some of the freshest, most energetic, spontaneous plein-air works of his career.

Wright returned to Salt Lake City in 1931 and taught art at the University of Utah where he became head of the art department after J. T. Harwood's retirement. Wright's term in that position was creative, progressive, and successful.  He left there in 1938 under difficult circumstances.  Although not documented, rumor had it that Wright had an inappropriate relationship with a female student and was exposed and ejected from his position, mostly through the efforts of Mabel Frazer, an artist and teacher in Wright's department. After this incident, Wright left for Europe never to return to Utah.

When the Germans invaded France, Wright was captured and imprisoned until France was liberated during World War II.  While a prisoner, Wright's family and friends provided him with supplies and he continued to paint.  After his release, he lived and worked in Le Duque, Dordogne, France until his death in 1952 at the age of 77.

Biography by Janie L. Rogers

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