Phillip Henry Barkdull

American, 1888-1968


Philip Henry Barkdull was an influential art instructor, primarily in northern Utah.  He experimented with several styles throughout his career, including the realist / modernist style of this still life.  The various brown hues in this painting mirror the low spirits Barkdull likely felt at this time, as his health continued to deteriorate.  However, Barkdull thought enough of this painting to enter it into the Utah State Fair, to which the sticker on the back attests.


Phillip Henry Barkdull was born on March 22, 1888, in the small community of Hatton, just outside Fillmore, Utah. He was the second of three sons born to John Henry and Emma Isabell Barkdull. While Henry was a child, his family struggled to make a success of their small farm. During his youth, Henry fell, hitting his head on a railroad track. He suffered a severe hearing loss. Later, a mastoidectomy left him also suffering from bad sinuses and migraines, which continued for the remainder of his life.


There were no schools in the rural area where Henry grew up, and his family needed his help on their farm, so he did not attend school. Finally, at the age of 23, he left the farm to begin high school at Brigham Young High School in Provo, where he took up the study of art. He was embarrassed because he was so much older than the other students, so he lied about his age. Even though he was always sickly, he managed to participate on the high-school track team.

After graduation from high school, he entered Brigham Young University to continue studying art. However, in 1917, before he could receive his degree, Barkdull was invited by an old roommate to accept a position as "Instructor of Art" at Dixie Normal College in St. George. But then, his career as an art instructor was delayed by his induction into the Armed Forces. He served for only a few short months before his ill health resulted in a discharge, and he once again began teaching art in Southern Utah, this time at Hurricane High School. Again his tenure was a short one, and he spent the next six years teaching art in various Utah schools.

Next, Barkdull moved to Provo where he taught arts, crafts, and design part-time at Provo High School. He spent the summers attending Brigham Young University and graduated in 1928. He continued teaching at Provo High School for two years after his graduation from BYU. It was during this time that he attended summer classes at Utah State Agricultural College and met Birger Sandzen, a Kansas artist who had a greater influence on Barkdull than did any other artist. Sandzen's neo-impressionist technique, with its thick impasto, raw color, and regionalist subject matter presented in almost a Cubist style, sparked Barkdull's imagination and led to a brief period of 

During the fall of 1930, a teaching position at Brigham Young University was vacated by B. F. Larsen, when he left for a year's sabbatical in France. Barkdull was chosen to fill the position. He was listed as an "Instructor in Art," teaching the following courses: Graphic Representation, Theory and Practice of Design, Domestic Art Design, and Outdoor Sketching with Oil Color. After his brief tenure at BYU, Barkdull was hired by the Logan School District as "Supervisor of Arts and Crafts of the Logan Schools," and he also taught art at the high school part of the day. His busy schedule as both instructor and district supervisor combined with his constant poor health all but ended any serious focus on painting. Persistent health problems resulted in his early retirement in the spring of 1954. After his retirement, financial problems forced Barkdull to continue working as a private instructor. 

Source: Springville Museum of Art