The First Vision
Minerva Teichert, 1934
The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in “the dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10) offers Latter-day Saint artists unique opportunities to testify of Christ. Minerva Teichert was one such artist. When given the mandate to tell “the Mormon story” by her teacher, American realist painter Robert Henri, she accepted the challenge. For the next fifty years, she painted stories from the scriptures and scenes of heroic Mormon pioneers.
Her large mural of The First Vision captures the moment when the Prophet Joseph Smith saw “two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above [him] in the air” (Joseph Smith-History 1:17). God the Father places His hand upon Jesus’ shoulder in a tender paternal gesture and introduces His Beloved Son to the young Joseph. Christ’s outstretched hands reveal the marks of the Crucifixion.
Later Joseph would be visited by the angel Moroni who would reveal to him the gold plates containing “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.” The Prophet Joseph both translated these sacred records and published them in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. Images of the gold plates and the Book of Mormon are found in the decorative border of the painting, emphasizing the importance of this book as a second witness of Christ.
What’s Going On?
In the lower left corner of the image a boy sits on the ground with his legs in front of him and his arms behind holding his weight. The boy’s feet extend into a cluster of lilies in full bloom. Above the flowers are two men, both wearing white robes, the figure on the left extends his hands. A yellow glow emanates behind the two men. The entire work is bordered by a geometric pattern. Look closely to see an open book in the top center and open metal plates open in the bottom center.
More About Teichert
The works of western American artist, Minerva Teichert, have received increasingly popular and critical acclaim in recent years. Today, the LDS community loves Teichert. She is a woman who successfully combined both faith and family and left an extraordinary legacy of artistic production.
Minerva Kohlhepp was born in North Ogden, but grew up homestead farming in the vicinity of American Falls, Idaho. Her father encouraged her childhood sketching. Soon, she developed an “indomitable will to succeed and excel in the field of art.” She taught school to raise enough money to go to Chicago for her art studies.
She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Art Students League of New York in the early 1900s. There, mural paintings and theatrical pageants were dynamic components of American popular culture. Teichert embraced these art forms.