MISSOULA – The oil painting titled “Animals Crossing a Bridge” by 19th-century French artist Jules Dupré that once belonged to Sen. William A. Clark has returned to its former brilliance and to the University of Montana after six months of repair.
The painting was a gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art to the Montana Museum of Art & Culture when the former institution in Washington, D.C., closed its doors. When it arrived in Missoula in July 2018, the painting was severely damaged, requiring both cleaning and conservation.
The work was entrusted to Seattle-area conservator Peter Malarkey, who meticulously restored it to its former brilliance by removing darkened varnishes, consolidating and touching up areas of paint loss, repairing earlier interventions and re-varnishing it. The painstaking conservation work, photographed and documented throughout the process, was funded by generous support from Suzanne and Bruce Crocker.
The painting was removed from its original gilded frame, which also was heavily damaged, and reframed by the Art Attic in Missoula.
Dupré (1811-1889) first showed his paintings at an 1830 Paris exhibition to benefit those wounded in the French Revolution of the same year. Over the next decade, artists who eventually formed the so-called Barbizon School went together on trips to sketch the countryside just beyond the capital, sometimes as far afield as Auvergne and Normandy.
Dupré preferred to paint the sparsely wooded plains along the Oise River, near L’Isle-Adam just northeast of Paris. This is likely where he painted “Animals Crossing a Bridge,” an image of a peasant herding his cattle across a bridge under an expansive sky.
The exhibition featuring Dupré’s painting, “The William A. Clark Collection: A Homecoming,” is on display at UM until Aug. 31. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum/.