Franz Johansen

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Franz Mark Johansen was born on May 10, 1928 in Huntsville, Utah. He is an LDS sculptor and painter an an emeritus professor at Brigham Young University. He is known as the founder of the LDS contemporary art movement, expressing spiritual belief through the human form.


Education and Career

He studied art under professors Glen H. Turner, B.F. Larsen and Roman Andrus at BYU and graduated in 1955 with a degree in Art. He continued at the school to complete his master's degree in Painting and Sculpting (1960). He also studied at the California School of Arts and Crafts, the Illinois Institute of Design, and the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. His works reflect this European training.

Along with studying at the institution, Johansen also joined the art faculty at BYU in 1956 and then taught for over thirty years until he retired in 1989.

Through both his paintings and sculptors, Franz often displays his interest in the different facets of the resurrection. One of his most famous creations, Resurrection Series, started with a group of paintings but then was augmented by eleven sculptures, each exploring various elements of the resurrection.

Johansen is best known for his figurative relief sculptures in both bronze and stone. His work is found on the Joseph Smith Building and the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU and is also displayed prominently as a two-story tall relief sculpture on the front of the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. Additionally, during the construction of the Washington, D.C. LDS Temple during the 1960s, Johansen was commissioned to sculpt the bronze doors for the building. Each door has four circular plates on which Johansen sculpted traditional LDS symbols such as suns, moons, and stars.

Others of his works can be found in the BYU Sculpture Garden, the Springville Museum of Art, the John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah, and in other locations throughout the United States.

Personal Life

As a young adult Franz served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England. He was impressed by the culture of museums in London and also by a story of William Blake, an English Romantic poet. Through these impressions he began to feel a desire to express his religious beliefs through visual art. When he returned from his mission he commenced studies at BYU and began his formal arts training.

In 1950 Johansen married Ruth Aldous, his childhood sweetheart. They have seven children - Lynn, Kevin, David, Nathan, Shawn, Mat, and Lisa - and 26 grandchildren. The couple lives in Provo, where Ruth passed away on July 8, 2001.

Franz continues to create and sculpt, particularly with his son, Nathan, who has also made a name for himself as a sculptor. Together the team created a large pioneer monument in Nebraska, commemorating the place many early pioneers left to make the thousand-mile trek to Utah. Franz is also working on a pioneer family piece to be placed in Huntsville, Utah, where his ancestors settled.

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