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A Life in Watercolors

Artistic Archive of Henry B. Eyring

Mary Harper | Photos courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jan 9, 2019
Man pointing at a small painting hung on the wall
President Henry B. Eyring explains one of his watercolor paintings.

Great art creates a feeling in the viewer. For President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the act of creating art helps him capture a feeling of love in his important memories and communicate that feeling to those who view his work.

“My motivation in all of my varied creative work seems to have been a feeling of love,” Eyring said regarding the collection. “I felt the love of a Creator who expects his children to become like him — to create and to build. I have always had a feeling of love for my family, friends and others who might gain some satisfaction and joy from my efforts. So, my hope … is that those who see this exhibit might feel both the Savior’s and my own love for them.” 

For more than five decades, Eyring has been depicting this love and capturing tender memories in watercolors. More than 100 of these pieces are on display in Salt Lake City at the Church History Museum’s exhibition, “A Visual Journal: Artwork of Henry B. Eyring.”

The Artist

Though he boasts no formal artistic training, Eyring says his attraction to drawing and building objects began in early childhood. He was encouraged to cultivate those innate abilities by occasionally painting alongside Brigham Young University-Idaho art professor Dick Bird during Eyring’s tenure at what was then Ricks College. More recently, Eyring has learned by studying the artwork of well-known watercolorists including Croatian artist Joseph Zbukvic and British artist Rowland Hilder.

During his life of service, Eyring and his wife, Kathy, have traveled the world making the memories captured in his work. “Often I see an image, let’s say of Switzerland — in a magazine or a photograph — and it will remind me of a memory, of being there with Kathy, for instance.” Like many who wonder at the sight of a beautiful landscape, Eyring sees something powerful as well.

“You think of God when you see a landscape,” he says. “Art is spiritual to the extent that your feelings and the feelings you think you are generating are those that God would appreciate. Portrayals of beautiful scenery are spiritual, as are ladies going to church in Tonga, or people in a setting where you feel the Lord loved them or they loved the Lord.”

watercolor painting with trees and people
Walking by the Seine
watercolor painting people walking in paris
Missionaries in Paris
painting of some rocks and water
Lake, Thousand Islands, New York

The Exhibition

“A Visual Journal” was originally curated by Kyoung DaBell for the Jacob Spori Art Gallery on the campus of BYU-Idaho with the support of Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson. It has since been expanded by curator Laura Allred Hurtado for the Church History Museum and includes 60 percent new works. The exhibit explores the theme of memory within Eyring’s work, in addition to six other reoccurring themes: portraits, the West and ranching, emotive landscapes, religious subject matter, boats and the ocean, and travel.

Allred Hurtado sums up the collection’s intentions: “This exhibition hopes to capture and communicate President Eyring’s deep love and tender nostalgia for his family and friends, and the important places that encompass their shared memories. It also hopes to encourage viewers to find, communicate, remember and share their own most powerful experiences of love.” 

Church Museum Director Alan Johnson echoes that sentiment. “It is our hope that those who come and see the exhibition will accept the invitation to capture events in their own lives and reflect on the things that matter most.”

A Visual Journal: Artwork of Henry B. Eyring” is free and open to the public at the Church History Museum through Jan. 21.

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