Butte Copper King’s Art Collection Gifted to UM

Visitors can enjoy the Clark exhibition at the Museum of Art and Culture

In 2018, UM’s Montana Museum of Art and Culture accepted the donation of nine pieces of art that once belonged to the estate of Senator William A. Clark.

Clark, one of Montana’s early “Copper Kings,” assembled a fortune worth more than $200 million by the time of his death in 1925. He donated his collection of primarily 19th-century French master paintings to the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C.

When the Corcoran closed its doors in 2014, nearly 20,000 works from its collection were distributed. Nine works from the Clark collection made their way to the Treasure State and are featured in an exhibition at MMAC open until June 15, 2019. The exhibition, titled “The William A. Clark Collection: A Homecoming,” includes a relief sculpture of the Madonna and Child attributed to Italian Renaissance sculptor Donatello, a painting by English artist Thomas Gainsborough, a painting by French Baroque artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and others by 19th-century painters Jean-Charles Cazin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Jules Dupré.

In addition to exhibiting the museum’s permanent collection, the MMAC also offers enlightening programs for the general public. Earlier this month, the MMAC hosted Bill Dedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and co-author of the bestselling Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. Dedman’s book details the story of the Clark family, especially Senator Clark’s daughter and heir Huguette. An artist herself, Huguette grew up in the largest house in New York City and owned paintings by impressionists Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, world famous violins, including a Stradivarius, and a vast collection of antique dolls.

New Museum Director

At the start of 2019, H. Rafael Chacón, Ph.D., UM professor of art history and criticism, became the new Suzanne and Bruce Crocker Distinguished Director of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture. Previous director Barbara Koostra had served 14 years in the position.

Chacón founded the Gilbert Millikan Art Resource Center in the School of Art in 1996 and has been active in museum studies since he was a college intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He served as a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and as Hispanic Studies Coordinator in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago. He has curated exhibitions at the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, the Eric Dean Gallery at Wabash College, and at the MMAC.

In honor of their commitment to the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, Suzanne and Bruce Crocker established the Suzanne and Bruce Crocker Distinguished Director Fund in 2014 and maintain ongoing annual support to cover the salary and benefits of the Directorship. A generous gift included in their estate plan will endow the fund and secure this position long into the future.