Minerva Bernetta Kohlhepp Teichert was born in North Ogden, Utah in 1888. Throughout her life she captured the great Mormon pioneer story and the story of the American West in murals and easel paintings. She died in 1976 in Provo, Utah.
After graduating from high school, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under John Vanderpoel, a master of the academic school of painting. She received a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York where she studied with art realist instructors Robert Henri and George Bridgeman.
Teichert created more than 60 murals that adorn public places in Utah. Handcart Pioneers (1930), Covered Wagon Pioneers, Madonna at Dawn (1936), Joseph Smith Receives the Plates (1947), and Night Raid (1935) are some of her significant easel works.
Biography adapted from The Springville Museum of Art.
Minerva Bernetta Kohlhepp Teichert was born August 28, 1888, in North Ogden, Utah. She grew up on a remote ranch in Idaho, the second of ten children. Her mother, Ella Hickman, was the daughter of one of the bodyguards of Brigham Young. Her father, Frederick John Kohlhepp, had been disowned by his prominent family when he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From her parents she gained a knowledge of the scriptural stories she would later portray as well as the indefatigable spirit that would characterize her life.
In addition to her formal schooling, Minerva was taught by her parents to love reading and to appreciate good music, literature, drama, and art. She and her sister acted out plays in a willow copse on their ranch. When Minerva was four years old, her mother gave her a set of watercolors, and from that time forth, Minerva considered herself an artist. She carried sketch pad and charcoal with her constantly, sketching even the wild horses that were brought in to the corrals. After she was married, she drew everything, including fresh-caught fish before cooking them. Her skilled rendering of life and action is the result of this early preoccupation with drawing.
When Minerva was 14, she went to San Francisco to work as a nursemaid for a wealthy family. During this time she was able to observe great paintings at the Mark Hopkins Art School. After she returned home and graduated from Pocatello High School at age 16, she taught school at Davisville, Idaho, saving money to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. When the time came for her to leave for Chicago, her father refused to let her travel alone. After being “set apart“ as an L.D.S. Church missionary, she traveled east with a church group, the first woman to be sent for art lessons with the official blessing of the L.D.S. Church leadership.
In Chicago, she studied under John Vanderpoel, a master of the academic school of painting. She returned home periodically to earn money by teaching or by working in the fields so she could continue her studies. When her studies in Chicago were completed, she returned to Idaho to “prove-up“ her own isolated homestead, living by herself and sleeping with a revolver under her pillow. She was courted by two young men, one wealthy (whom she rejected) and the other, a cowboy. When she received a scholarship and left for New York City to study at the Art Student's League, she told the cowboy, Herman Teichert, to marry someone else.
The League was one of the most important art centers in the world, and Minerva studied under Robert Henri and George Bridgeman, eminent realist art instructors of the time. She periodically used various skills to pay her way. She sketched cadavers for medical schools, illustrated children's books, painted portraits, and performed rope tricks and Indian dances on the New York stage. While in New York she, and other students, had paintings exhibited in the immigrant receiving station on Ellis Island.
Minerva became close friends with her mentor, Robert Henri, who called her “Miss Idaho.“ Although her artistic subjects and interests were very different from Henri's, she did develop a vigorous style with broad brush strokes that owes an obvious debt to his bold technique. Though rated with the top artists of the time, she returned to Idaho instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to study in Europe or of stepping into a professional career. Her teacher, Robert Henri, told her to go home and paint the history of the Mormon people.
She returned to the West feeling she had a mission to perform. Minerva married Herman Teichert, kept books for the ranch, cooked for the hands, raised their five children, and painted. Her studio was their narrow living room, where she tacked up her canvases to paint. The room was too small for some of her works, which had to be folded as she painted. Since she could not get far enough away from her large paintings to get the correct perspective, she looked at her work through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Teichert sent her children to bed at eight o'clock each night and then painted until midnight. Some nights, she set the clock ahead so she could send the children to bed earlier and have a little more time to paint.
Minerva painted on everything she could find: boards, aprons, flour sacks, the margins of books, walls and doors, and on brown paper bags. She loved to paint the western wilderness with its predominance of blues and grays, but seldom painted just the land. Human figures and work animals, usually in a narrative, were her most common subjects. She used neighbors and family members as models, providing herself with a wide variety even though she lived in a rural area.
Although Teichert's colors are generally subdued, she frequently used bright red paint to emphasize the central character or focal point. Her paintings are large and mural-like, to be viewed from a distance. The strong composition and draftsmanship combine with delicate colors and lines and compelling narrative to produce powerful works of art, which she hoped would motivate people “to build Zion.“
Women figure prominently in Teichert's works. She also did smaller paintings of flowers, still lifes, and scenery, which were usually intended as gifts. Teichert was a prolific painter, painting more pioneer and Indian subjects than any other Utah artist. Today, her best-known works are those published on the covers and in L.D.S. magazines and lesson manuals and her Book of Mormon series of over 40 paintings, which can be seen at Brigham Young University‹and the huge mural in the World Room of the Manti L.D.S. temple. In addition, the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City owns several large pieces, including Madonna of 1847.
Biography courtesy Springville Museum of Art.
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