Fra Dana...Who Was She?

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Portrait of Fra Dana by William Merritt Chase.
Portrait of Fra Dana by William Merritt Chase.

Sometimes, we overlook what's precious in our own back yard. Such was the case of Fra Dana artist and rancher's wife who lived on the Dana Ranch on Pass Creek, near Parkman, during the turn of the century.

Over 20 people showed up at the Bradford Brinton Memorial Thursday night to hear Dennis Kern tell the story of Fra Dana through a slide show of her work and her collection of paintings of artists who influenced her life.

Kern says Fra's life was bittersweet, especially for a woman artist during that time.

The Dana's had an agreement before they married. She would do her part at the ranch, but when she could, she would travel abroad to study painting. She was gifted and was determined to be successful, but in the end, regret turned to bitterness for Fra Dana.

She said in her journal, “I was born, I painted a little, and I'm ready to die. Kern says her last days were filled with anger and regret.

A woman of culture, a rancher's wife, and a exceptional artist, Kern hopes to rescue Fra Dana from obscurity. A biography of her life is coming out later this fall.

Kern is the former curator the University of Montana School of Fine Arts Permanent Collection to which Fra Dana donated her entire collection.

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