from Legacy of a Painter
Exhibition Catalog, Yellowstone Art Museum, July 1998
by Gordon McConnell, Senior Curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum
The legacy of an artist is found in the body
of his work. Montana artist Freeman Butts, who died at his home in Livingston on May
23 this year, left behind an enormous and important artistic legacy. In a career
that spanned half a century, from the late 1940's through the 1990's, Freeman Butts
created thousands of drawings, watercolors and acrylic paintings on paper; sculpture in
ceramics and bronze; and hundreds of oil and acrylic paintings on canvas.
A big, exuberant man who reveled in all of the
sensuous sights and pleasures of life, Freeman Butts embraced early on the vigorous
brushwork and gesturalism of action painting. Looseness, fluidity of line, high
energy and speed of execution characterized all of his work. Freeman painted some
non-objective canvases, but the vast majority of his work is figurative -- inspired by the
female nude and the landscape.
The boldly manipulated
relationships, supple paint handling, and human interest contained in these rich paintings
mark the summit of Freeman Butt's creative career. He certainly thought so, and he
held a group of twenty two of these figure paintings together for this exhibition at the
new Yellowstone Art Museum during late summer, 1998. Combined with figure paintings
from earlier years, and other paintings completed more recently, the exhibition provides
the opportunity to more fully appreciate the legacy of this great Montana artist.
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