For all the things that Frances Carroll Brown was - Marcus Daly's granddaughter, a debutante, a world traveler, a lady of means - it may be one of the intangibles that contributed most to her artwork.
"I think she had a really warm heart. She depicted people from all different sorts of social and class backgrounds," said Brandon Reintjes, curator of art for the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana.
That included a range of subjects, from day laborers at the Daly Mansion to people who were close to her, like her sister.
"She was mostly interested in people for the humanitarian aspects," Reintjes said.
And now 26 of Brown's pieces belong to the MMAC.
The museum was gifted 19 of Brown's oil paintings and seven charcoal drawings, all from her caretaker Mary Jean Warlen, to be added to the museum's permanent collection. The Daly Mansion owns an additional six of Brown's works.
An exhibition of Brown's art is slated to open at UM's gallery in December of 2011.
The paintings date back to the 1930s, but there's no way to determine the specific years they were created.
"Almost none of them are dated, so it's very difficult to see what the years are," Reintjes said. But he has collected information that points to the portraits being created pre-World War II, he said.
MMAC was contacted in 2009 by Warlen, who was interested in donating the pieces.
"We recognized immediately the historic and aesthetic ties they have to the region," Reintjes said, "but some were in poor condition."
The paintings were described by the conservator as having areas of loss and areas where previous repairs were failing.
"Given the age of the paintings, all of this is not unusual," Reintjes said. "Paintings are really delicate, fragile records of visual truth. They're susceptible to all sorts of environmental and condition changes."
Thanks to a grant from the F. Morris and Helen Silver Foundation, MMAC was able to have all but nine of the pieces conserved, repaired and stabilized.
All but one of the Brown collection are portraits, Reintjes said. The other is a still life, he said.
While Reintjes couldn't pinpoint exactly why Warlen chose MMAC to be the recipient of these pieces, he said she understands the connections with the Daly Mansion and the Bitterroot.
"I also think that the setting for a university environment was something that she had in mind," he said.
Brown was born in Baltimore in 1909. She lived most her life on the East Coast and spent a lot of time in Europe, but still kept a strong tie to the Bitterroot Valley, attending social events and celebrating holidays at the mansion. She was also a Stock Farm shareholder, which involved her in the day-to-day operations of the ranch.
Warlen was Brown's caretaker for the last 12 years of Brown's life. She died in 2002.
The combination of Brown's ties to Montana as well as her worldly travels made her collection a perfect candidate for the MMAC's permanent collection, Reintjes said.
"Part of our mission for the permanent collection is to highlight artwork that really looks at the global continuum of art history," he said.
"You have a connection to the Dalys and the Bitterroot Valley," Reintjes continued. "But you also have the greater story of how she served in World War II and traveled in Europe and kind of this time that we don't have access to any more."