Famed Utah artist Harrison Groutage dies at 87

USU art educator known for sense of adventure, curiosity.
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Harrison "Grout" Groutage, a painter who taught hundreds of art students from his professor's perch in Logan and made all of Utah his art studio, died Tuesday, Feb. 5 of kidney failure. He passed away at the Legacy House assisted living center in Logan.

Born April 21, 1925 in Richmond, Groutage first took to art professionally when he painted posters for a Logan movie house. He studied painting at three Utah universities before graduating from Brigham Young University. Hired onto the art department faculty at Utah State University in 1955, he assumed the post of department chair ten years later.

He was remembered by many as the first art professor at USU to insist on using nude models for figurative art classes. But his true legacy was the hundreds of art students who learned from his eye and technique through excursions into the Utah wilderness, and even locales afar as Mexico, where he and his students painted on-site.

"I don't sit down and copy nature," Groutage told The Salt Lake Tribune in a December 2005 article about his work. "I dramatize it. I celebrate it."

Groutage's paintings reside in many collections statewide, including a 126-foot-long mural on the outside of Dixie State College's fine arts building in St. George. In 1998, then-Gov. Mike Leavitt named him Utah Artist of the Year. Many Utah art historians mention Groutage alongside other celebrated 20th-century landscape artists of the West, including LeConte Stewart, George Dibble, Gaell Lindstrom and V. Douglas Snow.

"He had a fantastic sense of adventure and curiosity. He loved fast cars and cameras, which he kept stashed in the car in case he saw a breathtaking scene from the road," said daughter Hilary Groutage, who traveled widely with her father. "Many times, he'd be speeding up and down Utah highways, or terrible roads in Mexico, but always with an eye out for scenes to shoot and take home and paint. He was a total hazard on the road, but he'd do anything for the perfect shot. He saw beauty in everything."

Donna Poulton, curator of art of Utah and the West for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, said Groutage was considered an eminent artist of the West, and a preeminent artist of Utah. He approached his landscape paintings in terms of mood, as well as terrain.

"I remember talking to him one year ago about a painting he did of Utah Lake, and he could remember the day he painted it quite vividly, from the size of the waves to the wind and color of the sky," Poulton said. "In that way he could really capture not just the land, but its atmosphere. And he did it in all mediums."

Groutage is survived by his wife Iva Lou Groutage, also of Logan. He leaves behind three children, Farol Nelson of Richmond, James Groutage of Pocatello, Idaho and Hilary Groutage of Ona, W. Va., in addition to six grandchildren and five great grandsons. —

In memory

Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the LDS Church Eighth Ward Chapel, 325 Lauralin Drive, Logan. The family will plan a retrospective show of Groutage's paintings in early June in celebration of his life and art.

Donations may be sent to the Harrison and Iva Lou Groutage scholarship for art students at Utah State University, Office of University Advancement at 1490 Old Main Hill, Logan, Utah, 84322-1490.