Historical Artists | Inside the Vault | Visual Arts

Boyd Reese: Our Very Own van Gogh

The State Fine Art Collection, begun in 1899 as the Alice Merrill Horne Collection, now consists of over 1,100 works by Utah artists in all media.  The pieces are on display in various state and office buildings throughout Utah and many travel with the Utah Arts Council Traveling Exhibition Program.

The continued acquisition of artwork comes from purchases made through the visual arts program and donations from patrons and artists of the state of Utah.

This series is an effort to preserve and share the stories and experiences surrounding the artwork and artists of Utah as seen through the eyes of the Utah Arts Council staff.

Compiled by Laura Durham
Assistant Visual Arts Coordinator, Utah Arts Council



Alcoholics in Jail , oil on canvas
Boyd Reese (1932-1990)

Boyd Reese was originally from Ogden and he spent much of his time on the streets there as well as those in downtown Salt Lake City. The artist was well aware of his alcohol problem, which only added to his already troubled life. He thought of himself as the van Gogh of his day because of it. Boyd never really exhibited anywhere, but he ended up giving many paintings to the Utah Arts Council.

He frequented the UAC offices often and developed a fancy for just about every female who worked there. He even painted a picture of the Glendinning Mansion, where the UAC’s administrative offices reside.

When he spoke, he spoke quickly and nervously, but he would visit for hours until he said everything he wanted to say. Boyd was spotted several times on the street, walking aimlessly with paintings under his arms. Some say his architectural paintings were his strongest, but Boyd was most proud of his figurative pieces. “Alcoholics in Jail” is a good example of his autobiographical work. He spent many nights in the “drunk tank” and each figure in this painting is someone he knew personally. The artist died in his late fifties after collapsing in an Ogden hotel room.

Soon after his death, Boyd’s sister called everyone she knew who might have one of his paintings, hoping she could claim them in the name of her brother, the artist who wasn’t appreciated during his own time.

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