Artists of Zion National Park

High red rock walls of Zion Canyon with a blue sky and gnarled tree in the foreground.
Painting by William Wagoner
Zion Museum Collection ZION 2286

Dramatic landscapes have inspired great art around the world. The unique and awe-inspiring scenery of America’s national parks is no exception. In fact, national parks and great artists have always had a special relationship.

From the earliest days of European American Westward Expansion, artists joined explorers and scientists to document the “unknown” lands. Most Americans’ first notion that such places existed was from seeing a painting, either in person or reproduced in a magazine.

The towering cliffs of Zion Canyon were so remote and inaccessible, that the nation was not introduced to this landscape until the turn of the twentieth century.

 

Past Artists

Frederick Dellenbaugh

Frederick S. Dellenbaugh was an early artist and topographer of the American West. He served as an assistant topographer with Major John Wesley Powell's second expedition of the Colorado River from 1871-1873.

Thirty years later, during the summer of 1903, Dellenbaugh again visited Zion Canyon and completed a series of paintings based on what he saw. In 1904, he published an article about the area in the popular Scribner's Magazine entitled “A New Valley of Wonders.” Dellenbaugh’s images and words raised awareness about the majesty of the canyon and influenced some to petition for its protection as a national park. The canyon was proclaimed as Mukuntuweap National Monument by President William Howard Taft in 1909 and, in 1919, Congress changed the name and established Zion National Park.

One of Dellenbaugh's early pieces is held in the park’s museum collection.

 
 
"Mountains of the Sun" by Howard Russell Butler, 1926
Zion Museum Collection ZION 14586
"Mountains of the Sun" by Howard Russell Butler, 1926
Zion Museum Collection ZION 14586

Howard Russell Butler

The impressionist Howard Russell Butler is known for his paintings of seascapes and the eclipse of the sun, but he also painted landscapes. In 1926, the Union Pacific Railroad commissioned Butler to complete a series of landscapes to promote the scenic marvels of the Colorado Plateau. Seven of these paintings illustrated the marvel of Zion National Park. The wall-sized works of art engulf the viewer and showcase the immense sandstone cliffs and narrow canyon walls that Zion has to offer.

The paintings also represent the early period of the development of visitor recreation and transportation services by the National Park Service. They traveled the country and are now a part of the museum collection at Zion National Park.

 
 

Mary Russell Ferell Colton

Landscape artist Mary Russell Ferrell Colton painted Western scenes the early 1910s to 1940s, including Zion National Park in 1930.

Born in Kentucky in 1889, Ferrell Colton was raised in Philadelphia and studied art at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, one of the country’s first art schools for women. She later moved to Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband. While there, she was able to travel and paint many sites along the Colorado Plateau. Her work was exhibited at galleries and museums nationwide, showcasing the unique landscapes of the region. She established the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff where she worked as a curator, featuring local and indigenous art.

 

Adele Watson

Born in 1875, Adele Watson studied in Europe before settling in the United States, maintaining residences in both New York and Pasadena, California. An accomplished landscape painter, Watson traveled through the country painting coastal scenes, sweeping plains and dramatic cliffs, notably in Zion and Bryce Canyon. While in Utah, Watson developed her unique anthropomorphic styles in her work, portraying bodies and faces within the rock shapes.

This style earned her praise from the art community and in 1933, the Los Angeles Times’ art critic, Arthur Millier, wrote, “Miss Watson's work, recently described in these columns, consists principally of landscape, which, seen by the artist's imagination, discloses figures flying in the clouds, struggling for release from desert rocks or lying gracefully along the valleys. Miss Watson's vision are convincing and, at their best, quite beautiful. Her work has no parallel in this region.”

 

Artists Today

Today, Zion National Park still inspires artists to create masterpieces. Local artists and art galleries often feature park themed artwork. The Zion Human History Museum also occasionally features temporary art exhibits.

Artist-in-Residence Program
The Zion National Park Artist-in-Residence Program offers professional artists the opportunity to live and work in beautiful Zion Canyon. The works completed during this program contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of Zion National Park and reflect the National Park Service's commitment to the preservation of cultural and natural resources.

For more information on the application and selection process, visit the above link or contact the Artist-in-Residence Program coordinators by email or at 435-772-0184.

 
 
Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitation
Celebrating the role art has had in the history of Zion Canyon, the Zion Forever Project hosts an annual Plein Air Art Invitational in November. The event features some of the country's finest landscape artists to paint in the places that have inspired art for more than a century. The artists will paint en plein air (in the open air) throughout the week. Park visitors that week will have many unique opportunities to witness these great artists at work in the park through daily demonstrations, lectures and activities. For more information, visit www.zionpark.org.
 
A historic pot photographed inside the park museum building.

Museum Collections & Archives

Explore museum and archives collections of Zion.

Painting by Frederick Dellenbaugh of Zion Canyon with grass and trees in the foreground

Treasured Landscapes: NPS Art Collection

Explore paintings, watercolors, sketches, and other works on paper from over fifty National Park Service museum collections.

Last updated: September 26, 2022

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Mailing Address:

Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale , UT 84767

Phone:

435-772-3256
If you have questions, please email zion_park_information@nps.gov. Listen to recorded information by calling anytime 24 hours a day. Rangers answer phone calls from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. MT, but a ranger may not answer if they are already speaking with someone else.

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