George M. Ottinger

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Portrait of George M. Ottinger, by Charles Roscoe Savage.

George Martin Ottinger (1833–1917) was a 19th-century artist, educator and actor in Utah Territory.

Ottinger was born in Springfield Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and then raised in New York City. He was raised as a Quaker. At age 17 (in 1850), he joined the crew of a whaling ship. By age 20 he had circumnavigated the globe and done gold digging in California. He then studied art under Robert Weir for a time before going to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. For the next two years, Ottinger worked as a painter of miniatures in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He then moved to Kentucky where he worked as a photograph tinter as well as a fruit merchant.

Ottinger returned to Pennsylvania to continue to study art in 1857. In 1858 he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) at the urging of his mother. In 1859 he went to Richmond, Virginia where he worked as an artist.[1] In 1861 he came to Utah Territory in the Milo Andrus Pioneer Company. He formed a partnership with the photographer Charles Roscoe Savage. There was so little demand for their work in Salt Lake City that for part of 1861 they traveled through Idaho Territory doing jobs related to photography. Ottinger also did scenery painting for the Salt Lake Theatre as well as acting. In 1863, he became principal of the Deseret Academy of Arts, which was also a joint venture with Savage.

In 1861, Ottinger married Mary Jane McAllister Cullin. They only had one child before she died. In 1864, he married Phoebe Neslen.

In 1867, Ottinger began painting a series on the Spanish conquest of the Americas beginning with "The Last of the Aztecs". In 1879, Ottinger went with Savage as an art missionary to learn artistic skills in Europe. On his return, he did murals in the St. George, Logan and Manti Temples.

From 1876 to 1890 Ottinger was head of the Salt Lake fire department, overseeing its transformation from a volunteer to a paid organization in 1883. Ottinger taught art at the University of Deseret beginning in 1881 and continuing until 1892. He was a key influence on many later Utah artists.

Ottinger was also for many years part of the Nauvoo Legion. In 1894, he was appointed Adjutant General of Utah and in this position oversaw the organization of the Utah National Guard.

Added image of George Ottinger as published in the American Phrenological Journal. Ottinger was a friend of the phrenologist Samuel Wells

See Also[edit]


  • Marriott Library biography of Ottinger
  • Ask Art bio of Ottinger
  • Pslmquist, Peter E. and Thomas R. Kailbourn. Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, 1840-1865 (Stanford: University Press, 2000) p. 425-426.
  • Oman, Richard G. (1992), "Artists, Visual", in Ludlow, Daniel H (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing, pp. 70–73, ISBN 0-02-879602-0, OCLC 24502140

External links[edit]

Media related to George M. Ottinger at Wikimedia Commons

George M. Ottinger Photo Collection, Utah Department of Heritage and Arts