Harry Anderson’s Paint Studies on Exhibit at Church History Museum

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 6 October 2016

Christ and the Children (Christ with the Children), is one of three finished paintings by Harry Anderson in an exhibition at the Church History Museum of the artist’s paint studies done in preparation for commissioned paintings he did for the Church in the 1960s and 1970s.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Article Highlights

  • Paintings by Harry Anderson, a Seventh Day Adventist, are part of LDS culture.
  • His work is being spotlighted in the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.
  • Anderson painted the famous painting “The Second Coming.”

He was a Seventh Day Adventist, but his paintings of Bible subjects are among the most familiar and pervasive in Latter-day Saint culture. Now, much of that artwork is being spotlighted in a new exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

A Legacy in the Making: The Paint Studies of Harry Anderson opened September 23 and will remain through April of next year at the museum, located west of Temple Square.

What makes this exhibition unusual is that it features 25 paint studies Mr. Anderson completed as preparation for the paintings the Church commissioned him to do, beginning with a large work, Christ Ordaining the Apostles, for the Mormon Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Through the end of the decade and well into the 1970s, the artist completed numerous works for various uses in Church publications, meetinghouses, visitors’ centers, and temples.

The paint studies on display in the museum exhibit are done on illustration board with a common illustrator’s medium called casein (Mr. Anderson spent much of his early career as an illustrator). Their purpose was concept approval before the creation of the final paintings.

In addition to the paint studies, the exhibition features three completed works by the artist, allowing visitors in each instance to compare the study with the finished product.

The studies were donated by Kristin Geddis and her family. She is a daughter of Mr. Anderson, who died November 19, 1996.

Harry Anderson's painting titled John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 3:43-46; Mark 1:9-11; 2 Nephi 31:4-13).

The Second Coming, by Harry Anderson.

The Second Coming of Jesus (casein on illustration board, 1969) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Harry Anderson stands in the lobby of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City in front of the mural enlargement of his painting Go Ye Therefore and Teach All Nations. In 1975, he and his wife, Ruth, accepted the invitation of President Spencer W. Kimball to visit Salt Lake City to see how the Church was displaying his paintings. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

“In May of 2015, I received a call from Kristin,” said Laura Allred Hurtado, the museum’s global acquisition’s art curator. “She said, ‘I’m the daughter of Harry Anderson, and I have a couple of sketches that you might want to look at.’ It was really an understatement.”

Already in New York on business, Sister Hurtado made immediate arrangements to travel to Richfield, Connecticut, to meet with Mrs. Geddis.

“I wasn’t certain what I would find,” she said. “I thought maybe a sketch book. And I was just blown away by these preparatory paint studies that were just amazing—all of them works we know so well—and gorgeous and beautiful and intimate.”

Sister Hurtado said the studies enable Church members “to look at images so familiar but to see them with new eyes. It transforms them. The brush strokes are loose, they’re expressive, the colors are brighter; it’s like seeing a sketch of the Mona Lisa.”

The paint studies “give new life to Harry Anderson, new life to his work, and ultimately and importantly, new life to these stories that are so beloved to Christians around the world,” she said.

Mrs. Geddis, who attended an opening reception for the exhibition with six members of her family, said, regarding the sketches, “We found them in a corner of my dad’s studio in Richfield, Connecticut, and we contacted the Mormon Church because we knew that they would probably want them.”

She said the commission from the Church was an important step in the artist’s career. “He was asked to do paintings that were bigger than he had ever done before, and he accepted the challenge readily, which he always did. He was a guy that liked challenges.”

Grandson Briggs Geddis said Mr. Anderson seemed to despise talking about his personal talent, but he would readily discuss his paintings and their religious and cultural significance.

The exhibition features an interactive kiosk that will appeal to young visitors.

One of the sketches on display clearly shows the artist’s innovative string grid system he used to transfer his studies into his finished paintings. A brochure available at the exhibition features a reproduction of a portion of one of the works with a grid network over it and invites the visitor to try transferring one of the squares in the painting into an empty space that is provided.

Calling of the Fishermen (Christ Calling Peter and Andrew) is one of three finished paintings by Harry Anderson on display at the Church History Museum.

The Ascension of Jesus (oil on canvas, 1976) is one of three finished paintings by Harry Anderson on display at the Church History Museum as part of an exhibit of 25 paint studies done by the artist in preparation for paintings commissioned by the Church in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Ascension (casein on illustration board, 1976) is one of 25 paint studies done by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. This one shows the inventive string-grid system he used to enlarge a study into the final oil painting. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Christ Ordaining the Apostles (oil on canvas, 1963) is one of three of Harry Anderson's finished paintings in a new exhibit at the Church History Museum, along with 25 of the artists paint studies. The 5 by 12 foot painting was originally commissioned for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Title panel greets visitors as they enter the gallery in the Church History Museum where The Paint Studies of Harry Anderson exhibit is located. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Moses Calling Aaron to the Ministry (1967, casein on illustration board) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. The paint studies were preparatory work for the finished commissioned paintings he did for the Church in the 1960s and 1970s. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Claire Johnson with her mother, Susan, and brother, Jack, examines and comments on a Harry Anderson paint study during the opening reception on September 23, 2016, for an exhibit at the Church History Museum displaying 25 of the artist’s paint studies. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

A selection of Church literature illustrated with Harry Anderson paintings is part of new exhibit at the Church History Museum featuring 25 of the artist’s preparatory paint studies. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Go Ye Therefore and Teach All Nations (casein on illustration board, 1973) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. The completed painting was enlarged into a mural by Grant Romney Clawson, which has been displayed for many years in the lobby of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Behold My Hands and My Feet (casein on illustration board, 1976) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Visitors attend the opening reception on September 23, 2016, for an exhibit at the Church History Museum displaying 25 of Harry Anderson’s paint studies. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Harry Anderson in his Connecticut studio working on a study for Go Ye Therefore and Teach All Nations. The final painting would later be enlarged by Grant Romney Clawson into an impressive mural—16 feet high and 66 feet long—and installed in the lobby of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. The two artists met in 1975 when Harry and his wife, Ruth, were visiting Salt Lake City. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Harry Anderson, center, and his wife, Ruth, with President N. Eldon Tanner when the Andersons visited Salt Lake City in 1975. Nearly 10 years earlier, Harry had painted a portrait of President Tanner, which currently hangs in the Hall of the Prophets in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

As part of The Paint Studies of Harry Anderson exhibit at the Church History Museum, a display features a selection of Church manuals that have featured artwork by the artist. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Visitors attend the opening reception on September 23, 2016, for an exhibit at the Church History Museum displaying 25 of Harry Anderson's paint studies. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Family members of Harry and Ruth Anderson pose in front of his painting Christ Ordaining the Apostles, one of three finished pieces in an exhibit of 25 of the artist’s paint studies, at the Church History Museum. They are (from left) Jeremiah and Abby Brower, Briggs Geddis, daughter Kristin Geddis, Gabrielle Griffin, and Brady Griffin. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Christ Ordaining the Apostles (resin on illustration board, 1963) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. The 5 by 12 foot finished oil painting, also in the exhibit, was commissioned originally for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Christ Calling Peter and Andrew (casein on illustration board, 1970) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Christ and the Children is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

John Baptizing Jesus (casein on illustration board, 1968) is one of 25 paint studies by Harry Anderson on exhibit at the Church History Museum. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.