By Ron VandenBoom
A collection of 22 rare pieces of art by Assiniboine Indian artist William Standing have been placed on display in the H. Earl Clack Museum Art Gallery.
A recent audit of the collection values it at more than $100,000. Roger Stromberg, who represents the owners of the collection, Rosemary Clark and her son Tom, in an interview today said the collection is probably valued at about $300,000.
The collection consists of oil paintings and pen and ink drawings that show Standing's view of fading Indian traditions and the struggle of Indians as they try to adapt to non-Indian ways. Many of the works also show traditional Native American themes.
Standing, who died in an automobile accident in 1951, was born in Oswego on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in 1904 and was given the Indian name Fire Bear. Standing adopted the name Standing from his father, whose Indian name was Standing Rattle.
Standing attended the Haskell Institute in 1920 in Lawrence, Kan., where he received art training in pen and ink, watercolor, and oils. After leaving the school, Standing traveled the Northwest selling his work and perfecting his art.
His art reflected the realistic style and became popular along the Hi-Line as he sold his works to ranchers, farmers, and businessmen from Browning to the North Dakota border. Many area families collected more than one of Standing's work. One such family was the Robert Clark family, whose descendants now own the collection.
Stromberg said the collection was loaned to the museum by the family in April 1999 due to the efforts of Kieth Lokensgard, chairman of the H. Earl Clack Museum Foundation, who suggested the art could be used as a fund-raising tool for the Heritage Center.
The family, which was interested in selling all or part of the collection, learned about the Heritage Center fund-raising campaign through Stromberg, who had traveled to Havre to tour the Heritage Center and museum. The family also believed the collection could be used as a fund-raising tool to help the Heritage Center while at the same time offering the family a venue for selling the collection, Stromberg said. The family, he said, would then return a portion of whatever money was made to the Heritage Center as a donation.
But nothing was ever done with the collection.
Stromberg said the family was about to retrieve the art when they learned Thursday that it was finally going to be displayed.
The collection, which had been stored in a vault on the main floor of the Heritage Center, was discovered by LouAnn Raining Bird, who is temporarily running the museum while the County Museum Board searches for a new museum curator to replace Donna McGregor, who quit earlier this month. Raining Bird decided the time had come to bring the collection out of hiding and create an exhibit.
"They are glad that it is finally showing," Stromberg said, adding that while the family is not as motivated to sell the art as they were earlier, all of Standing's work is available for sale.
More than 50 pieces of Standing's work are currently at the Montana Historical Society in Helena and additional pieces are also at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.
According to Janet Sperry, collections manager at the Historical Society, Standing's work in pencil and ink compose the bulk of the collection in Helena. Much of his work was also in the form of letterheads and humorous postcards although they do have some pieces in oil and also watercolor.
"I'm really glad that you're going to be showing it," she said. "His work is truly wonderful."
During his lifetime, Standing's art was exhibited at the Washington Art Club in Washington, D.C., and in 1931 his work was displayed at the prestigious International Art Exhibition in Paris. He was killed at the height of his productivity.
The public is invited to view the exhibit from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Anyone interested in purchasing any of the works should contact Raining Bird for more information.