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George Wesley Browning

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George Wesley Browning
painting, watercolor
(Salt Lake City, 1868 - 1951, Salt Lake City )

George Wesley Browning, born in 1868, was a businessman who worked as an accountant for the Rio Grande Western Railway from 1890 to 1938. His weekend activities, however, had a significant impact on Utah art. An amateur botanist and entomologist (one who studies insects), Browning was an expert on Utah flora, and he published in nature study magazines. He became one of the first Utah artists to paint landscapes primarily in watercolor. Browning showed his interest in nature at an early age. Robert Olpin, an expert on early Utah art, wrote that Browning "roamed the hills, canyons, and mountains, searching out wild flowers, insects, and bird life, and studying nature's varying moods." This interest found expression in his paintings. The majority of his works are mountain and woodland scenes in oil, pastel, and watercolor. Although Browning never received formal training in painting, he associated closely with the early Utah realists and impressionists, among them Dan Weggeland, George Ottinger, J. B. Fairbanks, and John Hafen. He met these artists through his membership in the Utah Art Institute, which he joined in 1899. Artists such as John Fairbanks and John Hafen exposed Browning to impressionist techniques. The association also allowed him opportunities to display his works, which he did in 1905 at the Art Institute of Chicago and again in 1944 at the Art Barn. Browning won first prize in the first Springville Annual exhibition in 1922. Sunset in the Wilderness, completed in 1905, is one of Browning's pastels that displays his interest in nature and his use of impressionist techniques. Dramatically colored, it features the setting sun over a grassy hill, the haze of the closing day captured in wispy strokes. Alice Horne, a patron of many Utah artists, said that "though [Browning] had been denied the privilege of art study abroad, ... His intense love of nature and close powers of observation have served him.... His charming personality, kindliness, gentleness, and dignity have found their way into his pictures." George Browning died in Salt Lake City on Oct. 11, 1951. From Swanson, Olpin, and Seifrit Utah Art and Olpin, Dictionary of Utah Art.

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