By Freeman Butts

Sponsored by Danforth Museum of Art

TOUR SCHEDULE: 2023 – 2025

1. Gallery of Visual Arts, U of M, Missoula, MT – January 15 – February 26, 2023

2. Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, Great Falls, MT – February 9 – April 3, 2024


In a career that spanned half a century, Freeman Butts left an enormous and important artistic legacy, consisting of thousands of drawings, watercolors, paintings in oil and acrylic, sculptures in clay and bronze, and found object assemblages.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Butts studied art at the Hollywood Art Center School on the GI Bill and worked alongside the LA Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s. Butts moved to Montana in 1974 and has been credited with being part of the Abstract Expressionist movement in Montana.

Known for expressive paintings that integrate figure and landscape, Butts preferred to work using traditional house painting methods that lent themselves to his use of bold color, loose vigorous brushwork, and fluid sensuous lines. Although he worked quickly, Butts never reworked a canvas, believing it was better to fail and throw out than edit.

As Butts’ work evolved and matured through the decades, it reflected a broad range of interests and influences. Much like Monet, whom he admired, Butts worked in phases. Whether it was hay bales and silos, or the human figure, he painted energetically and tirelessly, cycling through familiar subjects. A man of giant stature and humor, Butts was generous with his time and enthusiastically supported younger artists. His influence is felt today in the experimental quality found in much of the work of Montana’s artists.

Freeman Butts’ work can be found in many private collections and museum collections including the Yellowstone Art Museum, the Missoula Art Museum, The Holter, the Paris Gibson Square Museum and the Danforth Museum of Art.

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