Researching Minerva Teichert at the Library

5 July 2023

Minerva Teichert was one of the most influential Latter-day Saint artists to emerge during the early 20th century. Research her life and art with these library sources.

Minerva Bernetta Kohlhepp Teichert (August 28, 1888–May 3, 1976) was a Latter-day Saint artist who gained prominence in the mid-20th century for her paintings, many of which were inspired by the Book of Mormon and the pioneers’ trek to the American West. To celebrate her contributions to Latter-day Saint art, an exhibit dedicated to Minerva’s work will open on July 6, 2023, at the Church History Museum. Minerva’s work has also been displayed in Church meetinghouses; magazines; museums; universities; and—perhaps most prominently—in the Manti Utah Temple, whose world room features Teichert murals stretching from floor to ceiling on all its walls.

If you are researching Teichert’s life and work, the Church History Library is an excellent place to do so. We have many collections related to Teichert, her family, her artistic oeuvre, and her legacy. Additionally, simply searching for “Minerva Teichert” in the Church History Catalog will display many of her works of art as they appeared in issues of Church magazines that are in the catalog.

Here, we have assembled some items and collections from the Church History Catalog to help you start your research into Minerva’s life and work. To view some of these sources, you may need to sign into your Church account and request digital access.

Drowned Memories (979.6 T262d 1926?)

Born in Ogden, Utah Territory, in 1888, Minerva was raised on a ranch in Idaho near the present-day cities of Pocatello and American Falls. Her art would forever be shaped by the frontier environment of her youth; even as a teenager, she would ride her horse around the Idaho high country and make charcoal drawings of the landscape and people she saw. Later, as a professional artist, sagebrush, cowboys, and Native Americans would continue to make frequent appearances in her work.

Much of the territory which so influenced Minerva was submerged by the construction of the American Falls Dam, which began in 1925 and flooded the Fort Hall Bottoms of the Snake River beginning in 1925. This short book, written by Minerva to preserve her memories of the disappearing area, contains both narrative and drawings, showcasing Minerva’s writing as well as her art. It also profiles many colorful characters whose antics became legendary in southern Idaho. For example, consider “Billious” McDaniels, a transplanted cowboy from Texas who made it his mission to lasso the smokestack of a speeding train. (He succeeded, albeit briefly, as the lasso was predictably ripped from his grasp. He was later suspected of robbing the train, which was carrying a band to play in Boise; he and an accomplice purportedly had the band disembark and play for two hours at gunpoint amongst the sagebrush.)

Throughout her life, Minerva lived in relatively humble circumstances, which helps explain this letter’s significance.

Some history: At 14, Minerva left Idaho to nanny for a wealthy family in San Francisco. There, she had her first exposure to art at the Mark Hopkins Art School, and Minerva’s small salary allowed her to attend a few classes. The classes hooked Minerva on art, and she was determined to earn enough money to continue studying her craft, even though her family was far from affluent.

After returning to Idaho, Minerva graduated from Pocatello High School, which qualified her to teach in Idaho and Utah. With her meager savings from teaching, Minerva would go on to study at the Art Institute of Chicago (from 1907 to 1912—it was a three-year program, but she had to return to Idaho periodically to earn more tuition money) and the Art Students’ League of New York (in 1915). The Art Students League eventually awarded Minerva two scholarships based on the quality of her work. To supplement her scholarship funds, Minerva drew anatomical sketches of cadavers for medical schools.

Upon completing her art studies, Minerva returned to Idaho and married Herman Teichert, a cowboy who had courted Minerva prior to her departure for New York City. When the Teicherts were forced from their Idaho home by the construction of the American Falls Dam,1 they managed to get by financially, but the onset of the Great Depression a few years later thrust the Teicherts into difficult financial straits. Hoping to sell her art, Minerva wrote to a prominent Salt Lake City art dealer named Alice Horne, asking her to exhibit her murals.

This document, written by Horne, recounts what happened next: Teichert hand-delivered several murals to Alice, who was moved to tears at the sight of them. The resulting exhibition increased awareness of Teichert’s paintings, whose sales helped the Teicherts keep their farm. On a related note, consider this letter in which Minerva provides Alice with an update on her work.

Fort Hall was established in Idaho’s Snake River Valley in 1834, back when the area was part of Oregon Country. Its name would eventually be used for the nearby city of Fort Hall as well as the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. There were actually two Fort Halls—the original, built near the mouth of the Portneuf River, and New Fort Hall, located about 25 miles to the northeast of the original site. With the construction of the newer fort, the original fort and its environs came to be known as Old Fort Hall.

Minerva wrote this book in 1932 after she was forced to leave Idaho. It builds on Drowned Memories, sharing local history via a mix of fiction and nonfiction vignettes. The book also features Teichert’s illustrations of Idaho people and locations.

These letters, written to Minerva’s family, discuss her artistic endeavors, her early life, and family matters of the day. The collection also includes a list of her paintings completed between 1949 and 1968, providing something of a postscript to the letter she wrote to Alice Horne (above).

Minerva drew these sketches to illustrate scenes from early Church history, such as the exodus from Nauvoo, the trek westward, and the march of the Mormon Battalion. Many of the sketches demonstrate Minerva’s expertise in drawing animals in motion, such as her depiction of wild bulls charging the men in the Mormon Battalion.

Produced in 1988 by the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, which holds many of Minerva’s works, this film features interviews with Teichert family members and provides a history of Minerva’s life. It also showcases several of her most notable paintings.

The Church History Catalog contains links to many external journal articles via its article index, and a search for “Minerva Teichert” displays numerous examples. This article gives a detailed account of Minerva’s process for painting the enormous murals in the world room of the Manti Utah Temple. It also briefly discusses the selection process through which Minerva—the first woman to design and paint a temple mural—was chosen for the job, as well as Minerva’s concept for the room and how she received approval for her design, which used contrasting scenes of wealth and poverty to show the world in a fallen state.

In this interview, Richard Oman of the Church History Department describes how he helped increase awareness of Minerva’s work after her death. He recounts how he traveled to Cokeville, Wyoming, to conduct interviews with the Teichert family; upon his arrival, he found many of Minerva’s older artworks tucked away in a box under a bed. Richard also discusses what he learned about Minerva’s artistic philosophy by studying her art school-era work.

Top image: Minerva Teichert in 1914, about to begin her studies at the Art Students League of New York.