Mahonri Young


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Sculptor, painter, and printmaker. Known particularly for tabletop bronzes of laborers and athletes, he also modeled American Indian subjects and completed several works related to his Mormon heritage. In forming his naturalistic approach, he rejected modern innovation and academic tradition while learning from both. Born in Salt Lake City, a grandson of founder Brigham Young, Mahonri Mackintosh Young lived on a farm in early childhood but from 1884 resided in the city. Without finishing high school, he began his art studies in his hometown before moving in 1899 New York, where he worked at the Art Students League with Kenyon Cox. In 1901 he continued on to Paris for additional study. Following his return in 1905, he lived in Salt Lake City for five years before settling in New York. Inspired in Paris by depictions of workers in Jean-François Millet's paintings and in Constantin Meunier's sculptures, he soon produced small bronzes depicting physical labor. Man with a Wheelbarrow (Whitney Museum, 1915) dignifies an unglamorous worker whose lower-class origins find parallels in the subjects of Ashcan School paintings and Abastenia St. Leger Eberle's sculptures. However, socially conscious sculpture found little public appeal, and after the Armory Show—which he helped to organize—Young turned increasingly to other themes. Three trips to the Southwest between 1912 and 1918 provided material for works devoted to American Indians. In the 1920s he lived again in Paris for two and a half years, during which he produced many of his popular prizefighter sculptures, such as Groggy (Whitney Museum, 1926). While teaching frequently from 1916 until 1943 at the Art Students League, in 1931 he married painter Dorothy Weir. For Salt Lake City, in 1947 he completed a vast monument, This Is the Place, commemorating his ancestors' arrival in the area. A monumental marble portrait of Brigham Young, installed in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol in 1950, was his last major work. In addition to paintings, he also produced a body of prints, mostly etchings. In poor health during his final years, he died in a Norwalk, Connecticut, hospital, not far from his longtime summer residence. His son, art historian Mahonri Sharp Young (1911–96), published several books about American art, including The Eight: Realist Revolt in American Painting (1973), Early American Moderns: Painters of the Stieglitz Group (1974), and American Realists: Homer to Hopper (1977), as well as a monograph on George Bellows (1973). Born in New York, he graduated in 1933 from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and earned a master's degree at New York University in 1951. From 1942 until 1946 he served in the U.S. military. In 1953 he became director of the Columbus (Ohio) Gallery of Fine Arts (now Columbus Museum of Art). After retiring in 1976, he lived on eastern Long Island, where he died at Bridgehampton.

Subjects: Art.

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