Former BYU professor James Christensen dies at 74

Jaren Wilkey/BYU
Former BYU professor James Christensen is pictured at his cabin near Sundance. Christensen was honored for his work at BYU’s 2014 Homecoming. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Former Brigham Young University professor and famed artist James Christensen died at the age of 74 on Sunday, Jan. 8, after a long battle with cancer.

Christensen was born in Culver City, California, on Sept. 26, 1942.

He studied at Santa Monica City College and UCLA before receiving a master of arts degree from BYU. He later taught art at the university from 1976 to 1997.

Christensen was known for his fantasy paintings. Fish, an element common to his artwork, became known as his trademark.

The artist painted several murals in LDS temples, including the Provo City Center Temple and the Nauvoo Temple. He also contributed murals for the All-Together Playground in Orem.

The Springville Museum of Art named Christensen as one of Utah’s Top 100 Artists. Christensen won multiple Chelsey awards throughout his lifetime, including in 2001 for his cover illustration for Leading Edge, BYU’s science fiction and fantasy magazine.

The Utah Arts Council awarded Christensen the Governor’s Award for Art. Additionally, he won the Alumni Achievement Award from BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications. He is an Honored Alumnus at BYU and a member of U.S. Art Magazine’s Hall of Fame.

Christensen served with his wife, Carole, as co-chair of the Mormon Arts Foundation.

He published several books, including “A Journey of the Imagination: The Art of James Christensen, Voyage of the Basset and Rhymes & Reasons.”

Christensen is survived by his wife and their five children, including artists Cassandra Christensen Barney and Emily Christensen McPhie.

Christensen’s funeral will take place on Saturday, Jan. 14.

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