Continuing Allure: Painters of Utah’s Red Rock at Utah Museum of Fine Arts

The vivid red and orange skies of the great American West are celebrated in an art exhibit in Utah.

The endless deserts and mesmerizing canyon regions of southern Utah have inspired filmmakers, poets, and artists for over 160 years.

In the exhibition, The Continuing Allure: Painters of Utah’s Red Rock, on view in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) G.W. Anderson Family Great Hall from January 14 through June 27, 2010, visitors will encounter breathtaking paintings by some of the West’s best artists.

While most of the paintings in this exhibition are representational in style, each artist strove to create, in his own way, an authentic American experience, capturing and interpreting the challenging terrain with innovative methods.

Organized by Donna Poulton, UMFA Associate Curator of Utah and Western Art, The Continuing Allure comprises works from private regional collections and the UMFA’s permanent collection.

The featured paintings span roughly a century, and were created by such artists as William R. Leigh, Sven Birger Sandzen, and Gary E. Smith.

Also included are the “California painters,” namely Edgar Payne, Maynard Dixon, Harold “Buck” Weaver, and Conrad Buff.

Each of these artists traveled to southern Utah, often staying for weeks or months at a time, to paint the cubed buttes and towering spires found in the great iconic sites of the West: Bryce, Zion, Rainbow Bridge, and the Grand Staircase.

Featured artist, William R. Leigh, is a classic example of an adventurous painter who became enamored with the rhythmic canyons and imposing rock faces of southern Utah.

Originally from New York, Leigh traveled to Arizona in 1906 to paint scenes of the Grand Canyon for the Santa Fe Railroad, and he spent nearly every summer thereafter painting in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. In 1922, Leigh embarked on a treacherous week-long trip to the steep, slick rock mass of Rainbow Bridge. It was there that he painted Rainbow Bridge by Moonlight, one of the works currently on view in The Continuing Allure.

Nearly a century later, artists like Charles Muench are still conquering the obstacles of Utah’s red rock region.

Muench regularly packs his paint and canvases to spend weeks in Bryce and Zion National Parks.

Visitors to the exhibition can see Bryce Canyon Color (2000), in which Muench captured the colorful canyon at twilight, carefully shaping the thousands of hoodoos and spires that fill the geological amphitheater.