They are some of the most celebrated artists of the 19th and 20th centuries: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, Eugene Delacroix, Joan Miro.
Come November, western Montana residents will be able to see for themselves what all the fuss is about.
On Friday, Nov. 12, the Montana Museum of Art and Culture will unveil an exhibit of works by those and other artists at the Paxson and Meloy galleries on the University of Montana campus. The exhibit features 14 paintings and one sculpture that were loaned to the MMAC by a private collector, augmented by a separate exhibition of approximately 30 historic prints - some of them never before exhibited publicly - from the MMAC's own collection.
Largely centered on portraiture, the exhibit of paintings includes original works by Ernst, Gauguin, Magritte, Renoir, Alexander Archipenko, Rosa Bonheur, William Bourgereau, George Romney, Théophile van Rysselberghe and John William Waterhouse.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to share with our audiences this quality of art," said Barbara Koostra, executive director of the MMAC. "We don't believe Montanans have ever had an opportunity like this to see artists of this level of historical importance. There are wonderful exhibits across our state constantly, but we're not aware of anything this monumental."
Koostra said the private collector, who wishes to remain anonymous, offered the works for exhibition exclusively at the University of Montana, after which they will be returned to the private collection. For that reason, she anticipates art historians and aficionados to come from near and far to view the exhibition, which will run through March 12.
"It's thanks to the largesse of someone, a private collector whom we're happy to work with, that this show is even possible," said Koostra, noting that the collector is not the same person who previously allowed the MMAC to exhibit privately owned works by artists including Egon Schiele, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky and Franz Kline in UM President George Dennison's office in recent years.
Brandon Reintjes, curator at the MMAC, said the exhibit promises to be educational as well as eye-popping.
"It's almost a crash course in art history, showing who some of the biggest players have been," said Reintjes. "We're incredibly proud to bring it to Montana."
To augment the exhibit of works on loan, Reintjes has put together a concurrent exhibition of prints from the MMAC's extensive collection. The prints specifically focus on rarely or never-before-exhibited works by European artists of the past three centuries.
Artists featured in that exhibit include Picasso, Delacroix, Miro, Nicolas De Larmessin, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Louis Simon Lempereur, Christian Dietrich, Charles-Nicolas Cochin, Giacomo Nevay, Adolphe Appian, Maxime Lalanne, Georges Rouault and Alberto Giacometti.
Reintjes said the exhibit of prints will spotlight the quality of artwork owned by the MMAC.
"There's no overlap in terms of the artists; but in terms of quality, it matches the ones in the masterpiece show," said Reintjes.
Over the past summer, Cheryl Leibold, retired archivist at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia - the nation's oldest art school and museum - helped Reintjes prepare the exhibit of prints from the MMAC archive. She said she was surprised by the depth and quality of UM's holdings.
"I was not expecting to see this level of work," she said in an interview last week. "The UM print collection is a tremendous but very little-known treasure of the university and of the state, and I think the prints included in this collection will be of interest to people beyond this region."
Reporter Joe Nickell can be reached at 523-5358, email@example.com or on NickellBag.com.