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Rare Salt Lake Temple garden room painting found

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

John Hafen's study for the garden room in the Salt Lake Temple

Ron Fox

SALT LAKE CITY — A painting by John Hafen has surfaced at Anthony's Antiques and Fine Arts gallery accompanied with a 1941 letter written by Hafen's son and a paint box that the artist used during his career.

Hafen is known for his landscape paintings and his mural work to the Salt Lake City Temple during the 1890s.

"The painting was a commission for the First Presidency for the garden room in the Salt Lake City Temple," said Ron Fox, an art enthusiast and president of the Fox Group, Inc.

Now the public has the opportunity to see this painting at Anthony Christensen's gallery in downtown Salt Lake City, on 401 E. 200 South for about the next two weeks.

"Hafen was under the direction of President Wilford Woodruff, " Anthony Christensen, owner of Anthony's Antiques and Fine Arts gallery, explained. "Hafen and others were hired to do murals in the Salt Lake Temple, and this is Hafen's small practice piece for his assignment of the garden room."

Hafen was born in Switzerland in 1856, and after joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his family immigrated to Utah, where Hafen developed his painting talents. In 1890, he and four others were sent to Paris as art missionaries, and they learned the new techniques of painting landscapes. When Hafen returned, he painted murals in the Salt Lake Temple.

Christensen said that this Hafen painting was a commission study for the various rooms in the temple, and this painting depicts the tree of life.

"In the painting, the tree actually glows and has a halo around it," Christensen said, describing the painting. "The tree's reflection is in the water alongside a beaten path."

Christensen explained that this artwork is rare because there are few studies by John Hafen that are not owned by the LDS Church or museums. This piece is also available for viewing to the public, unlike the murals inside LDS temples.

Because of its scarcity, Christensen urges the public that seeing the painted canvas of this rare piece of art is more meaningful than just in a picture.

"Anything in a museum is best seen in person," Christensen said. "The paintings have a spirit that can only be felt near it."

Email: mmckinlay@desnews.com

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