The works of two of the state’s most prominent early 20th century artists will be on display at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at The University of Montana starting Friday, Dec. 2.
The major exhibitions feature the work of Fra Dana and Frances Carroll Brown, two significant females who played a compelling role in Montana art history. The exhibitions, “Fra Dana: American Impressionist in the Rockies” and “Frances Carroll Brown: Bitterroot Portraits,” will reveal new research recently uncovered on each artist.
MMAC will host an opening reception for the exhibitions from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, in the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center lobby. The museum’s Meloy Gallery will feature the Dana exhibition, and the Brown exhibition will be located in the Paxson Gallery. Both exhibitions are free and open to the public and will run through Feb. 25, 2012.
“Fra Dana: American Impressionist in the Rockies” will present Dana’s work alongside works by artists she collected, including Alfred Maurer, William Merritt Chase and Joseph Henry Sharp.
Dana, a cattle rancher who lived near Great Falls, was one of the leading artists of the Rocky Mountain northwest. Born in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1874, Dana studied art at the Cincinnati Art Academy, the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York School of Art. In 1893, she moved with her family to Wyoming, where she met her future husband, Edwin L. Dana. The two married in 1896 and worked together to develop in Montana and Wyoming what would become America’s largest purebred Hereford operation by 1918. Her desire to study and create art often conflicted with her obligation as a ranch wife.
Dana’s bequest to the MMAC Permanent Collection in 1948 included her own artworks, as well as those by some of history’s most accomplished artists. The Dana Collection is central to the richness of the MMAC Permanent Collection and integral to the development of American art.
The exhibition coincides with the release of the first-ever full biography of Dana. “Fra Dana: American Impressionist in the Rockies,” co-written by Montana State University–Billings English Professor Sue Hart and University of Montana art history and criticism Associate Professor Valerie Hedquist, will be available in mid-December and can be ordered in advance through MMAC.
Brown was the granddaughter of Montana copper baron Marcus Daly, but despite the prominence of her family name, has never been the subject of art historical inquiry or a biographical compilation.
“To discover a hitherto little-known artist of the aesthetic caliber of Frances Carroll Brown with direct ties to Missoula and the Bitterroot is enormously exciting,” said MMAC Director Barbara Koostra. “Preserving the history of art in Montana through works such as these is central to our mission.”
Brown’s paintings were recently cleaned and conserved and her drawings were reframed and stabilized using archival materials, thanks to a generous grant from the F. Morris and Helen Silver Foundation.
MMAC’s fall hours are noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. For more information call 406-243-2019 or go online to http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Digital images of select items in the exhibitions are available upon request by calling 406-243-2019.