The Montana Museum of Art & Culture at The University of Montana will display two new exhibits: “A Hundred Years Later: Julius Seyler Among the Blackfeet” and “Richard Buswell: Close to Home” in the Meloy and Paxson galleries in the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center from May 2 to Aug. 3.
This summer marks the centennial visit of German-born artist Julius Seyler (1873-1958) to Glacier National Park in 1913. Though that visit and another in the summer of 1914 were his only trips to Montana, Seyler’s experience in Glacier National Park remained central to the rest of his career.
Seyler, a celebrated German Expressionist painter, trained at the influential Munich Academy. He enjoyed a successful career and exhibited alongside the foremost Modernist artists in Europe, including van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky and Klee. In 1913, he was included in the groundbreaking New York Armory Show.
Seyler traveled to the newly formed Glacier National Park at the invitation of the president of the Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill. Hill, an amateur artist and art enthusiast, took an immediate interest in Seyler, seeking artists to create dramatic scenes for his “See America First” advertising campaign. In Glacier, Seyler encountered the Amskapi Pikuni, known as the Southern Piegan or American Blackfeet. Seyler’s images endure as a record of Blackfeet culture at a time when it was rapidly changing.
Faced with severe anti-German sentiment at the outset of World War I, Seyler returned to Germany, where he continued to make paintings based on his experiences in Glacier. The effects of two World Wars negatively affected Seyler’s career, and his artwork remains relatively unknown. In 2010, UM Professor Emeritus William E. Farr wrote the first-ever monograph on Seyler titled “Julius Seyler and the Blackfeet: An Impressionist at Glacier National Park,” which chronicled his life and career.
Most of the paintings in the exhibition are on loan courtesy of Sigrid Reisch, whose tireless efforts to preserve Seyler’s artwork, along with Farr’s research, have rescued the artist from obscurity.
The exhibition in the Paxson Gallery features the work of Dr. Richard Buswell. Buswell is a fourth- generation Montanan who has photographed western settlement sites, ghost towns and frontier homesteads for more than 41 years. Rather than strictly working as a documentary photographer, he moves closer to his subject matter.
This new body of work focuses on corroded artifacts and decayed bones, which highlight loss and the ravages of time. These subjects have been retired from popular use by the time they are fixed in the alchemy of silver, selenium and gelatin that Buswell favors. His photographs are hopeful, describing the slow renewal of the land.
The MMAC and Buswell have enjoyed a nearly 20-year relationship. MMAC and The University of Montana Press have published three of Buswell’s books, including “Echoes: A Visual Reflection,” “Silent Frontier: Icons of Montana’s Frontier” and “Traces: Montana’s Frontier Re-visited.”
An opening reception for both exhibits will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 2, in the PAR/TV Center Lobby. The reception is free and open to the public. Sigrid Reisch will introduce her collection of Seyler material, and Farr and Buswell will sign book copies. The reception will include food and refreshments, with live music by Tom Catmull.
Additionally, Buswell will deliver an artist’s talk and book signing at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, in the PAR/TV Center’s Masquer Theatre.
The MMAC’s summer hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and Friday from noon to 6 p.m. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum.
Note to media: Digital images of select items included in the exhibit are available upon request by calling 406-243-2019.