James Taylor Harwood was bom in Lehi, Utah, in 1861, and somehow amid the hard work common of the pioneer life, he nurtured an instinctive love of and talent for art. “During those early years, my pencil worked industriously at every opportunity,” he wrote in his autobiography.
He felt a need to study and learn, and in 1885, he traveled to San Francisco and enrolled in the California School of Design. In order to be accepted, he had to submit a painting; his submission was a bunch of grapes that his teacher called the “best piece of work every presented there by an applicant.”
After studying for one year in California, Harwood returned to Utah where he opened the Salt Lake Art Academy, In June 1888, Harwood held an auction (he auctioned off more than 100 oils and drawings) and raised money for his training in Europe, By September, he had arrived in Paris, where he enrolled in the Julian Academy, one of the most influential and successful private schools in France, Harwood spent two years studying and learning in Europe before returning back to Utah, where he once again opened a studio in Salt Lake City.
His reputation quickly drew talented and skilled students, some of whom would become the second group of Utah artists to go to France for further education. Thus he led the way for Utah artists to further hone and polish their skills; collectively these early artists left a rich legacy of beautiful pieces that have lasted more than a century and inspired scores of artists to pursue their dreams.