River's Bend - Glacier National Park

Early Women painters of Glacier National Park……an inspiration to paint “River’s Bend”

Glacier National Park is a 1,583-square-mile wilderness area in Montana’s Rocky Mountains and was established in 1910. “River’s Bend — Glacier’s Flathead River” comes from a plein air study I did during a workshop I attended in Kalispell, Montana, the gateway to Glacier National Park.

I was literally spellbound when we all walked out onto the bridge at Glacier’s old west entrance and looked out over the early morning light on the Flathead River. We all painted this magnificent scene and we all interpreted it differently. When I got back home, using my plein air study and photos of the scene, I created “River’s Bend” in pastel on a 16-inch-by-20-inch panel using a variety of pastels including my favorites, Ludwig.

In addition to being inspired by the unequaled beauty of Glacier National Park, and as luck would have it, Kalispell’s Hockaday Museum of Art had an exhibition called “A Timeless Legacy.” The exhibition featured “Women Artists of Glacier National Park,” a look back at women artists who traveled to Glacier to paint its beauty spanning from the early 20th century to today’s Women Artists of the West. 

These early plein air painters endured not only harsh conditions in all seasons to travel in the wilderness region now known as Glacier National Park but they also experienced a lack of recognition from the art world of the times.

The exhibition included works from Nellie Augusta Knopf (1875-1962), who taught art in what is now called MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill.; and Elsa Laubach Jemne (1888-1974) of Minnesota, who was commissioned by the Great Northern Railway to paint portraits of the Blackfeet tribe of Glacier.

Other notable painters of Glacier were Leah Dewey Leabo (1896-1966), who represented Montana in the second National Exhibition of American Art in New York in 1937; and Lucile Van Slyck (1898-1982) from Ohio, who backpacked into Glacier National Park alone in early spring of 1930 while the land was still under a blanket of snow to paint this magnificent park and its beauty.

I was equally impressed by four nationally recognized contemporary painters, Linda Tippetts and Rachel Warner, both from Montana; Kathryn Stats of Utah; and Carole Cooke of California. These women painted Glacier National Park in 2014 in anticipation of the “Women Artists of Glacier National Park” exhibition held in 2015. Their works hung side by side with those of the early women painters of Glacier, a grand exhibition that continues to inspire me today.

The museum produced both a DVD and book about the life and works of these early women pioneer painters and their present-day counterparts.

Whenever I find myself in a painting slump, all I have to do is pick up the book or pop in the DVD to get my creative juices flowing again.

 Now that “River’s Bend” resides in its new forever home, prints are available from my online art gallery in a variety of sizes. You can actually project what it will look like on any wall in your home or office so click here for more information.