Art in the Old Supreme Court

The painting "Lewis Lewis’s First Glimpse of the Rockies
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, 84' x 132'

So important did the Lewis and Clark Expedition seem to turn-of-the-century Montanans that all of the Capitol artists except Joullin painted the subject. In this piece, F. Pedretti’s Sons depict Meriwether Lewis viewing for the first time the formidable mountain ranges that lay between the Corps of Discovery and the Pacific Ocean. Using an unusual visual strategy, the Pedretti artist invites the viewer to experience the moment through the act of Lewis’s observation rather than focusing on what he actually saw. (Photo by John Reddy)


The painting "Gates of the Mountains," depicting the titular landscape on the Missouri River. Gates of the Mountains
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, 84' x 120'

On July 19, 1805, journeying up the Missouri River from the Great Falls to the headwaters at the Three Forks, Meriwether Lewis and his men passed through a spot where the river narrows alarmingly, slicing the land into high cliffs on either side. Lewis named it the Gates of the Mountains, a geographical designation still used today. The decision to depict a historic landscape rather than a peopled event (the only one among the Capitol’s seventeen paintings by F. Pedretti’s Sons) was Governor Toole’s. (Photo by John Reddy)


The painting "Emigrant Train Being Attacked by the Indians," depicting settlers on the Oregon Trail holding guns, ready to shoot, while positioned in front of a wagon. Emigrant Train Being Attacked by the Indians
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, 84' x 132'

Although native attacks on emigrants did occur in Montana, they do not constitute a major aspect of state history. Did white fear of such an occurrence make it seem a more defining event in their history than the actual number of incidents would suggest? In appropriating this element of the classic western saga for Montanans, perhaps Governor Toole also thought to honor families, as well as mountain men and prospectors, as part of the heroic era of Montana’s past. (Photo by John Reddy)


The painting "The Chase of the Buffalo," depicting Native Americans wielding spears and bows on horseback, hunting a herd of buffalo. The Chase of the Buffalo
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, 84' x 132'

The Chase of the Buffalo portrays the life and presumed death of Plains Indian culture as it was understood at the beginning of the twentieth century. The chase scene, long a favorite of western artists, signified the traditional buffalo economy of Montana natives. (Photo by John Reddy)


The painting "Farewell to the Buffalo," depicting Native Americans standing around a buffalo they hunted in front of a rural Montana landscape. In the right-hand side of the painting, a train can be seen coming through a railroad tunnel. Farewell to the Buffalo
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, 84' x 120'

In Farewell to the Buffalo, a companion to the above image, Indians pray over the corpse of the last buffalo as a train enters the picture space at the right. In spite of its benign appearance, the railroad was not the innocent agent of neutral progress, but a key factor in bringing about the very tragedy depicted in the painting. (Photo by John Reddy)


The painting "Signing of the Enabling Act," depicting the signing of the bill that later allowed Montana to become a state in 1889. Secretary of State Thomas Bayard sits on the left-hand side of the painting, holding the Act, while President Grover Cleveland stands in the center of the painting behind his desk. Montana Signing of the Enabling Act
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, each 84' x 48'

This and the following statehood painting valorize government procedures, acknowledge the triumph of law over frontier conditions, and celebrate Montana’s coming of age after a long and painful struggle. The signing of the Enabling Act on February 22, 1889, “enabled” Montana to become a state once the requirements for a state constitution were satisfied. In the picture, Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard hands the bill to outgoing president Grover Cleveland as Joseph K. Toole, in his role of territorial delegate, looks on. (Photo by John Reddy)


The painting "Signing the Proclamation of Statehood." President Benjamin Harrison is seated on the left-hand side of the painting, holding the Proclamation, while Secretary of State James G. Blaine sits behind a desk in the right-hand side of the painting. Signing the Proclamation of Statehood
F. Pedretti’s Sons, oil on canvas, 1902, each 84' x 48'

As the final step to statehood, President Benjamin Harrison signs the proclamation declaring Montana a state on November 8, 1889, in the presence of Secretary of State James G. Blaine. (Photo by John Reddy)


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