By Mary Helland
For The Courier 

56 Years Later

William Standing’s Painting Returns To County; Collection On Exhibit At Pioneer Museum


Renowned Assiniboine artist William Standing will be featured at the Pioneer Museum in Glasgow in what could be the largest assembly of his art, sponsored by the Valley County Historical Society.

The showing of his paintings and drawings, along with historic photographs of the artist and his time, will hang from June 9 through Sept. 1. The museum is open seven days a week through Labor Day.

The centerpiece of the show is “The Medicine Lodge,” painted in 1929 at Gus Knapp’s store in Oswego. The large oil painting features 25 Assiniboine lodge dancers, all identified and painted according to the specific medicine gifts carried throughout their lives.

Standing died tragically in 1951, and this painting left Knapp and Long’s Pioneer Store in Oswego in 1957 for a three-month exhibit at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, after which it was put in storage for the next 22 years. In 1979 it was moved to the Museum of the Rockies, where it was exhibited for a number of years, but a few years ago it was again put into storage.

Since it is still owned by the Knapp family, a secondary loan was arranged by both parties. Gus Knapp’s daughter, who does not want to be identified because of harassing art dealers, was happy to bring this painting back to Valley County, where Standing spent his entire life.

“This (painting) is history” she said. “Every one of those people lived and it should be shared.”

Nearly all of the 25 Assiniboines pictured have descendants on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

When asked what her earliest memory of William Standing was, she said, “When I was four years old (1930), he came to our house to finish a pointing, and I was bothering him. He finally told me I could watch, but not so close.”

The Knapp family is proud of the influence they had on Standing’s 25-year body of work. Some of his finest paintings were done in Knapp’s store with Gus providing the canvases and paints. The family still owns several significant paintings, including “Buffalo and Wolf,” and “Buffalo Stampede,” two that Standing took to an exhibition in Paris.

Standing was notorious for spending his last cent socializing in the beer halls, forgetting to replenish his art supplies and then sketching on linoleum squares, cardboard, wooden boards or any scrap of paper. But these are important pieces of history too, of that time and place. About 20 of these small pieces will be on exhibit, along with more than 30 larger paintings.

The Museum of the Rockies has loaned three large oil landscapes nearly 5 feet long. The Montana Historical Society has loaned six large oils and one watercolor of buffalo and Indian scenes. Many locals have also loaned their Standing works, each one having an important story.

The writer, Mary Helland, is the Pioneer Museum exhibit coordinator.


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