Included in the Montana Museum of Art and Culture’s “Hometown Exhibit” are prints from wood engravings by Missoula artist James G. Todd.
Todd created the engravings, "Montana Portraits," of notable people in Montana history as a contribution to the anthology, "The Last Best Place."
The artist certainly had no dearth of subjects to choose from in this state full of writers and artists. The series includes portraits of Chief Charlot, Andrew Garcia, J.J. Audubon, William Clark, Meriwether Lewis, Joseph K. Howard, Norman MacLean, Charles Russell, Richard Hugo, James Welch, Dan Cushman, Myron Brinig, Ivan Doig, Taylor Gordon, and Thomas McGuane.
The MMAC has on display a handful of these portraits including James Welch, Richard Hugo and Norman MacLean, who, in keeping with the theme of “Hometown,” have made an indelible mark on our fair city. If you’ve lived in this area for long, these three are household names.
James Welch, of "Winter in the Blood" and "Fools Crow" fame, called Missoula home until he died in 2003. Although originally from the Blackfeet Indian reservation, he came to town to study literature and creative writing under Hugo at the University of Montana.
Hugo, a prolific writer and poet, taught for and was the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Montana until his death in 1982. He often chose the subject of either the economic depression of Montana, or his own personal depression, and his poetry is still a mainstay in the creative writing department curriculum at UM.
MacLean grew up in Missoula, where he was the son of a Presbyterian minister. "A River Runs Through It," for which he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, launched this area into fame when it became a highly successful film in 1992.
Todd was a contemporary to some of these writers, and he could just as easily be featured in one of the "Montana Portraits" himself, as someone who is leaving a lasting influence on Missoula history.
In 2008, the city of Missoula commissioned Todd to design “Mountain Waters” on the exterior of the Currents Aquatic Center at McCormick Park, which features motifs of Northwestern wildlife amidst cascading waters.
Although this may be the most visible legacy Todd leaves behind, the influence on the art scene of this area through his 30 years of teaching at UM and the art work he his still creating will not soon be forgotten.
"Montana Portraits" is part of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture’s permanent collection and can be viewed at the Paxson Gallery on the University of Montana Campus in the PAR/TV Center. MMAC’s exhibit “Hometown: Images of Missoula from the MMAC Permanent Collection” runs from through Sept. 12.