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Valerie Hedquist talks about Fra Dana

From: KUFM - Montana Public Radio
Series: The Write Question
Length: 29:01

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In the 1890s, Fra Dana dreamed of becoming a famous painter. But then she fell in love with a cowboy from northern Wyoming and her life got complicated. During this program Valerie Hedquist reads from and talks about the book she co-wrote (with Sue Hart), 'Fra Dana: American Impressionist in the Rockies.'

Fradana_book_small

Toward the end of her life, Fra (pronounced “fray”) Broadwell Dinwiddie Dana (1874-1948), summed up her life in a letter: “I was born, I married, I painted a little, I am ready to die.”

Missoula art historian Valerie Hedquist and Billings author Sue Hart have assembled a fine biographical work that proves Dana’s life far more colorful and interesting than the subject admitted.

Dana came to Montana as a young bride, to live at Pass Creek Ranch in Big Horn County with her husband, E.L. Dana. Her impact on the arts in Montana would be realized much later in her life through her involvement in establishing the Montana Institute of the Arts and her eventual bequest of 113 pieces of her art collection to The University of Montana in Missoula. She also gave over 2,000 books to the university’s library.

Fra Dana was born in Indiana. As a teenager, she attended the Cincinnati Art Academy for three years, just prior to meeting her future husband. Early in her marriage, Dana divided her time between the Montana ranch and traveling, both domestically and abroad. She continued to study art and enjoyed spending time with friends involved in the arts. Her long list of acquaintances included Joseph Henry Sharp, Mary Cassatt, William Meritt Chase, and Gertrude and Leo Stein.

She particularly loved Paris and New York, cities she came to know intimately and where she sometimes rented studio spaces. Dana wrote extensively in her journal about her friendship with artist Alfred Maurer. They traveled together, and spent time painting and sketching in Paris. One of her most treasured gifts is a painting by Maurer of a French woman named Gabrielle, which now resides in the permanent collection of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

Edwin Dana was seemingly supportive of his wife’s travels, and sometimes accompanied her. But in 1907, Dana wrote in her journal, “I speak no more of my vanished dreams.”

And in 1911, after 15 years of marriage, she wrote, “I could fight the world and conquer, but I cannot fight the world and Edwin too; he will always pull against me in the life that I desire. So I shall give up. He has won. I will never bother him anymore with my desires or ambitions. Why struggle?”

As much as she loved the outdoors and the ranch, the lifestyle was unfulfilling for Dana. She yearned for the company of other artists, literary conversations and the finer things in life.

Throughout the years, she continued to paint. Her favorite subjects were flowers from her garden and portraits of family and friends. One of her most notable works is a self-portrait, showing herself sitting in a window seat reading the newspaper.

In 1937, she moved from the ranch to Great Falls where she became good friends with novelist, Mildred Walker. Edwin visited often during the next nine years, before he retired and moved into the apartment. His health began to fail, and even though she was ill herself, Dana nursed him until he died in 1946. The artist passed away in 1949 after a long battle with cancer.

The book is richly illustrated with color photographs of Dana’s own paintings and those in her collection, as well as many black and white pictures of her, her family, friends and scenes of the ranch. A timeline of her life lines the inside covers of the book, and an impressive list of information sources, organized by chapters, is included.

Sue Hart lives in Billings, where she has taught at Montana State University Billings for 45 years. She has authored five books, written scripts and produced documentaries for PBS, and garnered awards for her writings, including the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.

Hedquist is an associate professor of art history and art criticism at The University of Montana in Missoula. The authors credit Barbara Koostra and the staff at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and editor Caroline Patterson as being invaluable in the process of creating this impressive book, which sells for $35 softcover and $55 for hardback.

– Judy Shafter (published in Lively Times)

Piece Description

Toward the end of her life, Fra (pronounced “fray”) Broadwell Dinwiddie Dana (1874-1948), summed up her life in a letter: “I was born, I married, I painted a little, I am ready to die.”

Missoula art historian Valerie Hedquist and Billings author Sue Hart have assembled a fine biographical work that proves Dana’s life far more colorful and interesting than the subject admitted.

Dana came to Montana as a young bride, to live at Pass Creek Ranch in Big Horn County with her husband, E.L. Dana. Her impact on the arts in Montana would be realized much later in her life through her involvement in establishing the Montana Institute of the Arts and her eventual bequest of 113 pieces of her art collection to The University of Montana in Missoula. She also gave over 2,000 books to the university’s library.

Fra Dana was born in Indiana. As a teenager, she attended the Cincinnati Art Academy for three years, just prior to meeting her future husband. Early in her marriage, Dana divided her time between the Montana ranch and traveling, both domestically and abroad. She continued to study art and enjoyed spending time with friends involved in the arts. Her long list of acquaintances included Joseph Henry Sharp, Mary Cassatt, William Meritt Chase, and Gertrude and Leo Stein.

She particularly loved Paris and New York, cities she came to know intimately and where she sometimes rented studio spaces. Dana wrote extensively in her journal about her friendship with artist Alfred Maurer. They traveled together, and spent time painting and sketching in Paris. One of her most treasured gifts is a painting by Maurer of a French woman named Gabrielle, which now resides in the permanent collection of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

Edwin Dana was seemingly supportive of his wife’s travels, and sometimes accompanied her. But in 1907, Dana wrote in her journal, “I speak no more of my vanished dreams.”

And in 1911, after 15 years of marriage, she wrote, “I could fight the world and conquer, but I cannot fight the world and Edwin too; he will always pull against me in the life that I desire. So I shall give up. He has won. I will never bother him anymore with my desires or ambitions. Why struggle?”

As much as she loved the outdoors and the ranch, the lifestyle was unfulfilling for Dana. She yearned for the company of other artists, literary conversations and the finer things in life.

Throughout the years, she continued to paint. Her favorite subjects were flowers from her garden and portraits of family and friends. One of her most notable works is a self-portrait, showing herself sitting in a window seat reading the newspaper.

In 1937, she moved from the ranch to Great Falls where she became good friends with novelist, Mildred Walker. Edwin visited often during the next nine years, before he retired and moved into the apartment. His health began to fail, and even though she was ill herself, Dana nursed him until he died in 1946. The artist passed away in 1949 after a long battle with cancer.

The book is richly illustrated with color photographs of Dana’s own paintings and those in her collection, as well as many black and white pictures of her, her family, friends and scenes of the ranch. A timeline of her life lines the inside covers of the book, and an impressive list of information sources, organized by chapters, is included.

Sue Hart lives in Billings, where she has taught at Montana State University Billings for 45 years. She has authored five books, written scripts and produced documentaries for PBS, and garnered awards for her writings, including the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.

Hedquist is an associate professor of art history and art criticism at The University of Montana in Missoula. The authors credit Barbara Koostra and the staff at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and editor Caroline Patterson as being invaluable in the process of creating this impressive book, which sells for $35 softcover and $55 for hardback.

– Judy Shafter (published in Lively Times)

Timing and Cues

music bed from 13:57 to 14:52